Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law easing some penalties for domestic violence this week. Critics say this will make holding abusers accountable even more difficult.

1. How does the ruling change the way Russia treats domestic violence?

The measure, approved on January 27 in parliament and later ratified, reduces the penalty for violence against family members when it is the first such offence and does not cause serious injury, re-classifying it as an administrative misdemeanour punishable by a fine.

Veronica (the name she has given in order to protect her identity), a woman who has been beaten by her husband, holds her child in a shelter outside Moscow for women who suffered domestic violence. (AP)

2. Russia now regards domestic violence as “various manifestations of family relations.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov last month said that it is important to tell the difference between what he termed serious violence and “various manifestations of family relations.”

The new law says that beatings that result in bruising or bleeding mean 15 days in prison or a fine of less than $500, as long as there are no bones broken.

Such beatings are now defined as civil rather than criminal offences in first instances, when the victim suffers “no serious harm.”

Previously such action was defined as battery, and was punishable by up to two years in jail.

“If he beats you it means he loves you” Russian proverb #Russia votes 380-3 to decriminalize domestic #violence

— JudithRenaud (@JudithRenaud) January 29, 2017

2.  It’s not just women who are affected.

The law doesn’t only affect wives, but the couple’s children, too.

Conservative proponents of the change argued it was not right to punish parents for disciplining their children and said the state should steer clear of private domestic affairs.

According to the state statistics agency, in 2015 there were 49,579 crimes involving violence in the family. Of those crimes, 35,899 involved violence against a woman.

Forty percent of all violent crimes are committed within families, according to statistics from Russia’s Interior Ministry.

Alexandra, 26, a victim of domestic violence from Moscow, knows the trauma only too well after suffering years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her father. (AFP)

3. Does the Russian government believe that domestic violence is acceptable?

One of the MPs who drafted the law says no.

“The question is not whether it’s OK to hit or not. Of course it isn’t. The question is how to punish people and what you should punish them for,” Olga Batalina said.

Supporters say the law aims to make punishment more fair, as they say such acts were punished more harshly if they committed by family members.

However, Alena Popova, an activist who has campaigned against the law, says it would be fine to pass the amendments if a draft law specifically aimed at tackling domestic violence was passed at the same time, The Guardian has reported.

“Passing these amendments and not passing the other law is another sign that our society refuses to take this problem seriously,” she said.

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