This past January, Russian policymakers proceeded to decriminalize domestic violence throughout the country. This decriminalization comes just one year after the opposite event took place and lawmakers criminalized the act. Basically, decriminalization of domestic violence, means that one can inflict physical harm on another member of their household, to a certain degree, without having it considered a criminal offense.
What I mean by a certain degree, and as an example – a man can lay a hand on his wife, and as long as he doesn’t break any bones, give her a concussion or internal bleeding, what he is doing is completely legal. The violation happens when the person who is doing the abusing has been caught doing it more than once in a space of 12 months, and has gone beyond the ‘allowed’ level of violence. If they violate the terms, the penalty is a $500 fine or a stay of 15 days in prison.
Obviously, as an American woman, where any form of abuse is taken very seriously, hearing that Russia has gone back to such an archaic form of thinking, especially in a legal sense, is mind boggling. What seemed to have created this regression is the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church within Russia. The very same men who pushed this new legislation, or very old one, depending on how you look at it, belong to the Russian parliament and the Church; they were outraged last year when the criminalization of domestic violence passed and have been working to overturn it ever since.
These members of the government stated that what goes on behind closed doors, between a family, and especially between children and their parents, is entirely private and it is the god given right of the parent to discipline their child as they see fit as it pertains to the matter of respect to the parent. The Church stated that there is a difference between criminal activity and domestic violence, as domestic violence is something that is done by a loving parent to a child in need. While you and I may see this is a very warped sense of love, it is an ancient ideology that is hard to shake.
Statistically speaking, by looking at information published by Russia’s Interior Ministry, in 2015, 40% of all severe violent crimes occurred within the family unit. Every year, thousands of women are killed and others seriously injured at the hand of domestic violence. What this law is essentially saying is that domestic violence is seen as a normal part of family interaction and life. The very fact that the Russian government has backed this law exemplifies its views on women and children as a lesser part of society.
Russia has been conservative and old-fashioned about social issues in the country since its establishment. The issue of ‘gay propaganda’ as they call it, had been banned in the country, as their idea for what makes a man a man and a woman a woman is very strict and antiquated. The nuclear family is always a mother, father, and children. The focus in daily life is success in school and at work, with little room for growth in a direction that is not approved by the social norm. All of these constraints and backing by the government are taking Russia back in time, separating it light years from other nations, both legally and socially.