The law on decriminalization of domestic violence will increase the number of victims
The State Duma adopted in an urgent order, the Federation Council approved and the President signed the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code, which excluded even the very concept of domestic violence and a special responsibility for it from the Code. Responsibility for beatings of relatives was excluded from Article 116 of the Criminal Code depriving the most vulnerable groups – children, the elderly and women – of such preventive measures as threat of criminal prosecution for domestic violence.
This means that the abuser will not be held criminally liable, but only will be prosecuted in the administrative order [which envisages fines] if he committed beatings of his family members for the first time. Only in case of repeated violence it will be possible to try and arragin the perpetrator on a criminal charge.
However, the Criminal Code maintains special protection from bullies and those who inflicted blows, even the first time, based on the political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious hatred or enmity, or by hatred or enmity towards a particular social group.
A catastrophic situation with domestic violence has developed in our country, even according to official statistics (which reflects far from all cases), dozens of thousands of women, children and elderly become victims every year, and 40 per cent of all serious violent crimes are committed within families, and dozens of thousands of victims are killed every year.
The present administrative, criminal and criminal-procedural legislation is inefficient. Cases are instituted only if the injured party applies to court in accordance with the procedure of private prosecution. Neither the police nor the prosecutor’s office participate in such trials. The injured party should independently gather evidence and present it to the court that it is virtually impossible for the victims in situations of domestic violence. Often, the victim and the abuser share the same flat or house, thus it is dangerous for the victim to apply for prosecution and, more than that, collect evidence. Collection of evidence is linked to serious procedural difficulties. Unlike the defendant, the private prosecutor does not get a lawyer free of charge, and not everyone can afford to pay for a lawyer. In addition, cases of private prosecution are terminated in connection with reconciliation of the parties, and there is a danger of pressure on the victim by the perpetrator. Due to this, many victims choose to either not apply to the court at all, or abandon the struggle after applying to court. In case of the award of a penalty, it is paid from the family budget, that is, with the victim is punished together with the abuser.
Often the perpetrator repeatedly manages to avoid punishment. In fact, domestic and family crimes are now legalised. Even before [the adoption of the law] police tried to avoid taking such cases, and now there are even more grounds for this. Deputies and senators consciously acting on orders from the most reactionary representatives of traditional Russian confessions participating in the expert boards under government bodies, adopt laws in the spirit of “patriarchal despotism”. Violence is becoming almost a societal norm under the slogan: “they [the victims] are asking for trouble”, “beating means loving”.
The weak members of the family can not find protection anywhere. Even in Moscow, there are just a few telephone lines, where one can call in case of domestic violence. And there are only a few crisis centres across the country, where one can find shelter from abusers. There are no protective mechanisms for victims (security requirements, psychological and legal assistance, shelter networks, rehabilitation centres, etc.). There are rehabilitation programmes both for victims and abusers.
The world practice in the fight against domestic violence has proven that a special law on the prevention of domestic violence is more effective than individual articles of the criminal, civil and administrative laws. Similar laws have been functioning in many countries in Western and Eastern Europe and the CIS for several years already. The experiences of Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and other countries have shown that cases of domestic violence fell from 20 to 40 per cent after the adoption of such laws.
The adopted law contradicts the European (Istanbul) Convention of the Council of Europe “On preventing and combating violence against women” from 11.05.2011, signed by all the EU countries. The Russian Orthodox Church that lobbied for decriminalisation of domestic violence was against this Convention, which Russia has not signed yet.
Almost all existing independent women’s organisations, journalists and social activists protested against the adoption of these amendments. The petition against the law on the chance.org platform has collected over 250,000 signatures.
On 16 January 2017, the Council of Europe also called on Russia not to adopt this law. Markus Leoning, Vice President of Liberal International, supported the stance and the public campaign against the law calling Russian President not to sign the law.
We are convinced that decriminalisation of family violence will increase the number of victims, leaving the abusers without real punishment. We are urging the legislators to adopt a special law on liability for domestic violence, and create an efficient state mechanism for prevention of domestic violence, aid to the victims and their rehabilitation.
Chairman of the YABLOKO Party