Vladimir Putin has signed a law that decriminalises some forms of domestic violence.
In January, the lower-chamber of the Russian parliament gave its overwhelming backing to the law that would ease some penalties for domestic violence, alarming women’s rights campaigners who fear it will encourage abuse. Russia’s upper chamber of parliament, the Federation Council, passed the bill on 01 February.
Dubbed the “slapping law,” the bill would allow parents to strike their children and husbands to strike their wives or partners.
The law will categorise as administrative offences — instead of criminal acts — cases of domestic violence that result in pain but not bodily harm.
The law, which the State Duma or lower house of parliament, passed in its second of three readings by 385 votes to two, would reduce battery of a relative to a civil offence instead of a criminal offence in first instances, when the victim suffered no serious harm.
Those who support the proposed change, including members of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, say they want to protect parents’ right to discipline their children and to reduce the state’s ability to meddle in family life.
“This is a historic vote because in certain countries the state’s role in family life is way too much,” said then Andrei Isayev, a deputy representing United Russia. “Today’s vote will end such practices in the Russian Federation.”
Supporters of the amendment say anyone who inflicts serious physical harm will still be criminally liable. But women’s rights campaigners say it is a retrograde step. Women’s and children’s organisations as well as NGOs have vehemently criticised the proposed change in the law.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was important to distinguish between “family relations” and repeated instances of violence.
Each year, about 14,000 women die in Russia at the hands of husbands or other relatives, according to a 2010 United Nations report.