It is no secret that the Russian government has a major task in eradicating domestic abuse, with the latest statistics showing that 49,579 crimes involving violence in the family were committed in Russia in 2015. With the vast majority of victims being women and an unknown number of offences going unreported it is time that legislators focused on how to give protection to those who are vulnerable.
Instead, Russian MPs this week backed a law reducing the penalties for those convicted of inflicting violence on family members, decriminalising some offences. These changes mean the authorities will be unable (and unwilling) to protect the powerless or break the vicious circle of abuse within the home. Abused children will continue to grow up being more likely to become abusers or victims themselves.
Breaking these cycles takes resources and painstaking work and lawmakers need to support such efforts that can lead to social progress as, for example, they did earlier this month in France, when beating children was outlawed. Unfortunately, the current tendency of lawmaking in Russia is to support the archaic thinking of much of the population.
The amendments in Russia are already being interpreted by opponents and supporters alike as giving official permission for violence. First offences that do not result in serious injuries will now be punished by a fine. Since such payments, of up to 30,000 rubles (£400), will obviously be taken out of family budgets, in themselves these fines could become a disincentive to complain.
Making victims responsible for gathering their own evidence is another new outcome that has been equally misconceived. Who will do this if the victim is a child? A frightened or an abusive mother? Neighbours who called the police when they heard screams?
But the biggest mistake is that only a second offence will truly be considered a crime, supposedly to create parity with the way that violence between strangers outside the home is dealt with. Yet this fails to realise that victims of domestic violence, and especially children, are uniquely vulnerable because they lack the opportunity to escape.
Their abusers are not strangers, and are usually the people who should protect and care for them. As a consequence, the psychological and long-term consequences of the same physical injuries are far more severe. It is this continual cycle of inflicting both emotional and physical trauma that Russia seems incapable, or unwilling to address.
At Equation we are committed to putting an end to domestic violence and abuse. If you feel motivated by our cause, don’t forget you can get involved with our work by getting in touch or joining our community on Facebook and Twitter.