Domestic violence reports soar in Russian city following partial decriminalisation

Mayor of Yekaterinburg believes law change makes domestic violence seem acceptable

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The Independent Online

Reports of domestic violence have more than doubled in Russia’s fourth largest city since the Government reduced the punishment for spousal or child abuse from a criminal to a civil one.

Police in Yekaterinburg responded to 350 incidents of domestic violence daily since the law was relaxed compared to 150 such incidents previously, according to the city’s mayor.

Yevgeny Roizman told Russian media: “Before, people were afraid of criminal charges — this acted as some kind of safety barrier.

“People got the impression that before it wasn’t allowed, but now it is.”

The law reduced the punishment for attacks that result in “minor injuries” such as bruises or cuts from two years to 15 days in prison along as they do not happen more than once a year, sparking outrage from human rights groups around the world.

The law was instigated by a female ultra-conservative MP Yelena Mizulina, argued it made no sense to break up families for the sake of “a slap”.

According to Rossiskaya Gazeta, the Russian government’s official newspaper, between 12,000 and 14,000 women die every year in Russia as a result of domestic violence – a figure backed up by a 2010 UN report.

Up to one in three Russian women is believed to suffer some form of physical abuse at the hands of a partner, while 40 per cent of all violent crimes and murders take place within the home, according to the Anna Centre, which runs Russia’s only domestic violence hotline.

A popular Russian saying is “if he beats you, it means he loves you” and tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda carried an article after the law was passed saying that women should be “proud of their bruises” from violent husbands because some evolutionary psychologists claim they are more likely to give birth to sons.

Supporters of the measure, signed by President Vladimir Putin, claim it will give parents greater freedom from state interference to discipline their children.

Battering a spouse will now be punishable by a fine of less than $500 (£400), 15 days of 'administrative arrest', or community service. 

The Duma – the lower house of Parliament – passed the bill in January by 385 votes to two before it was rubber stamped by the upper chamber before being signed off by Mr Putin.

"Significant" injuries, such as broken bones or concussion, or repeated offences, would have to result before any criminal charges can be brought. 

A survey carried out by Russia’s state-sponsored poll found 50 per cent of Russians were in favour while just 17 per cent said they were opposed to it.

Many organisations expressed serious concerns about the law change, including Amnesty International who described it as “a sickening attempt to further trivialise domestic violence”.

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