Sunday, February 25, 2024

Russian Courts Giving Lighter Sentences to Women Guilty of Killing Their Partners in Partial Compensation for Limits on Their Ability to Claim Self-Defense, HSE Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – In 2017, Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure decriminalizing family violence because the Russian Orthodox Church and other advocates of traditional values argued that the state should not insert itself into such actions under most cases. But in the years since, Russian courts have compensated for this in an interesting way.

            They have done so, Svetlana Zhuzhkova and Anton Kazun, two scholars at Moscow’s HSE, say by imposing significantly shorter sentences to women killing their partners than to men who do the same thing (

            Because 78 percent of all women charged with murder are accused of killing their partners, while only nine percent of men are, the fact that women are given sentences several months shorter than men found guilty of the same crimes not only has enormous consequences on punishment but is at odds with one might expect in a society celebrating patriarchal values.

            “In a patriarchal society,” the authors write, “a man has an implicit right to violence against a woman but a woman is expected to be submissive rather than to resist. But an analysis of verdicts shows that the opposite is true: women who killed an intimate partner are treated more leniently by judges than are other murder defendants.”

            What makes this finding intriguing is that Russian judges by their sentences are defending women in ways that the Duma and Putin don’t believe should be taking place. Of course, this pattern also reflects the fact that most Russian judges are women and that many believe that taking women out of the home longer will impose greater social costs.

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