Sunday, July 28, 2019

Family Violence Nearly Universal in Russia, Rights Activists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko has called on members of her body to come up with recommendations for fighting family violence, a call that Alena Popova, an activist in this area, welcomes for the attention it calls to this plague but that Mari Davtyan, a lawyer involved with it, doubts will have any serious impact.

            Until now, Popova says, Russians have talked about family violence only on social media. Matviyenko’s appeal will broaden that discussion and thus is “an important ideological victory.” It already has an impact: a few days ago, a Flashmob, “I don’t want to die” attracted millions of subscribers.

            She suggests that the new interest in this problem may have arisen now become Russia recently lost a case in the European Court for Human Rights which declared that Moscow remains “on the side of those who use force rather than on the side of their victims.” This must change, Popova continues (

            “I am very glad that two and a half years after the decriminalization of family violence, legislators are finally remembering it.” But it is very sad that so many have suffered in the interim and continue to suffer now. If a new law is adopted, that will be a signal from the government that “force is impermissible.”

                She says the new law must improve the ability of victims to get restraining orders and suggests that all victims should be able to appeal directly to their legislators and the offices of those officials in their districts in order to get assistance.

            Davtyan is equally concerned but less optimistic. She says this latest wave of attention to family violence gives her a sense of déjà vu and that the timing of such expressions of official concern now as in the past coincide with the time when Moscow must report to the UN Committee on the Liquidation of Discrimination Against Women.

            “I would very much like to believe that this time, the task of struggling against violence in the home will move off a dead spot, but honestly speaking, I am inclined pessimistically about that possibility.”  Russian legislators know what to do and they have known what to do for a long time. They don’t need to come up with anything; they just need to copy what others have done.

            A test of any new seriousness will be the willingness of the authorities to allow for the issuing of restraining orders keeping abusers out of the apartments and houses where they are used to living. This is very unpopular, but Russia needs to show “what for us is more important, the right of property or the right to life and health.”

            Another measure of whether things will change will be how much money the government is prepared to spend to protect those who are victims of abuse. That will require studying how much abuse costs the system – something other countries have done but Russia has not – and spending tax dollars to compensate.

            “For the struggle with violence in the home,” Davtyan says, “what is necessary is political will: we already have draft bills. But the legislators think that if we adopt a law about combatting family violence, we will destroy all the families of Russia because violence in the home in one form or another exists in practically every Russian household.”

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