Nataliya Vasilyeva — Associated Press Jan 22, 2017
In Russia, giving one’s spouse a slap is nothing extraordinary for many people. This week, the Russian parliament is expected to take a step closer toward decriminalizing it altogether.
Battery is a criminal offence in Russia, but nearly 20 per cent of Russians openly say they think it is sometimes OK to hit a spouse or a child. In a bid to accommodate conservative voters, deputies in the lower house of parliament have given initial approval to a bill eliminating criminal liability for domestic violence that stops short of serious bodily harm or rape.
If the measure passes its second reading in the Duma on Wednesday, when the draft can be changed, approval in the third and final reading would be a foregone conclusion. From the Duma, it would proceed to the upper house, largely a rubber-stamp body, and then to President Vladimir Putin’s desk.
Data on domestic violence in Russia are obscure, but Interior Ministry statistics show that 40 per cent of all violent crimes in that country are committed in family surroundings. In 2013, more than 9,000 women were reported to have been killed in incidents of domestic violence.
The bill stems from a Supreme Court ruling last summer to decriminalize battery that doesn’t inflict bodily harm, but to retain criminal charges for those accused of battery against family members. Conservative activists objected, saying the ruling meant a parent spanking a child could be punished more harshly than a non-relative striking the child.
Ultra-conservative lawmaker Yelena Mizulina, who also authored Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban, then introduced the bill to decriminalize domestic violence. It initially was shelved after a disapproving review from the government.
Tables turned at the end of the year when a journalist from a conservative publication pressed Putin about it at his annual news conference.
“If the father spanks his child for a good reason as a means of education, a traditional Russian one, he will be sentenced to two years in prison — and if a neighbour does this, he will get away with a fine,” the journalist told Putin.
Putin replied that “it’s better not to spank children and refer to some traditions,” but then said, “We should not go overboard with it (punishment for battery). It’s not good; it harms families.”