Thursday, December 20, 2018

Family Violence in Russia Increasing but Church and State Oppose Doing Anything to Fight It

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 18 – Ever year now, thousands of women and children are victims of violence in the home, and as many as 3,000 of them die, figures that have if anything increased since the Russian government “decriminalized” such violence last year and thus made it far less dangerous for the perpetrators and far less likely anyone will report such violence.

            Efforts to correct this situation have gotten nowhere, Ivan Obsvyannikov says, because both church and state oppose them: “The church sees in the struggle with violence in the home a threat to family values, and the authorities see any new law” as costing them money that they don’t have (россия-ситуация-с-домашним-насилием-усугубляется).

            Up until the Duma decriminalized family violence, turning it into an administrative violation punishable only by fines, the number of cases reported to the authorities had risen dramatically from 34,000 in 2012 to 65,500 in 2016. Then with the law, the number dropped to 36,000 in 2017.

            That decline was clearly what the powers that be wanted, but activists like Natalya Khodyreva in St. Petersburg say the real number is 15 to 25 times as large because women don’t report the violence – and they are even less likely to now because fines do nothing to take the perpetrators out of the home and in fact cost the family part of its income.

            Moreover, the authorities hide much of the crime that is reported by dividing it up into various categories or treating reports as something they can ignore because many policemen accept the horrific notion that if a husband beats his wife, it means he loves her, Anna Rivina of Nasiliyu.Net says. 

            A major step in the right direction would be to introduce restraining orders, but while 119 countries have such arrangements, including Belarus, activists say, Russia does not and there is significant resistance to introducing restraining orders of any kind there. 

            Some officials, especially in the Duma, talk about doing something; but their ideas remain bottled up in committees where strong lobbies consisting of Russian Orthodox Church conservatives worried about “family values” and of government officials worrying about any new costs have blocked them from being considered.

            The private sector has tried to fill the gap. There are now more than 100 crisis centers across Russia – for an interactive map, see -- but they are largely restricted to major cities and are overwhelmed with requests for help.  Activists say their only hope is that a new generation of Russian women will demand better treatment – within their families and from the government. 

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