A constitutional court in Russia recently ruled current domestic violence laws are incompetent and need to be updated to offer protection for victims and harsher consequences for perpetrators. They have ordered lawmakers to make the changes in legislation.
The ruling came after the appeal of a domestic violence case where a woman was routinely beaten by her brother, who only received light sentences and fines. As it currently stands, if an offender attacks his victim within 12 months of his first offense, it is a crime. But if the attack occurs outside of the 12-month window, it’s an administrative case, not a criminal one.
Domestic violence during the pandemic has been referred to as a shadow pandemic, with cases of violence against women and children worsening with stay-at-home orders. And according to Equality Now’s Janette Akhilgova by way of the Thomas Reuters Foundation, police lack proper training with domestic violence cases and are unable to protect victims. She also noted victims are responsible for the collection of their own evidence and the country needs a system to prevent future violence.
A lawyer with the Consortium of Women’s Nongovernmental Associations Tatiana Belova said of the ruling, “We would like to believe the decision will become a reason for the legislator to think about the ineffectiveness of decriminalizing beatings and the lack of adequate protection for victims.”
A survey last year revealed two in three people believe domestic violence is a serious problem, while 80% of participants support new legislation on the issue.
The Realist Woman’s take:
While the pandemic has made the lives of so many women utter hell having to stay home with their perpetrators, in Russia, it didn’t help that in 2017 certain forms of domestic violence were decriminalized to make the state butt out of private family business.
I think new laws are long overdue but at the same time, Equality Now’s Janette Akhilgova is right. The focus should also be on prevention. This is a culture that believes women are subservient and that they exist for the sole pleasure and nurturing of men.
When men in any society, start to see women as their equal, human beings who deserve respect, the culture behind violence against women will change. Until then, this is a public health crisis and there needs to be a shift in culture and campaigns to encourage that shift.