A bill that would downgrade domestic violence from a criminal charge to an administrative offense passed its first voting hurdle on Wednesday in Russia’s lower house of parliament the duma .
Politico Europe said that 368 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill with one “no” vote and one abstaining.
Under the rule, the charge of “battery within the family” would be removed from the Russian Criminal Code, said the Moscow Times. The offense will be punishable by a fine, community service and a brief prison term.
However, the criminal charge returns if a perpetrator is charged with the offense twice or more in a year.
Conservative minister of parliament Yelena Mizulina sponsored the bill, which she said brings domestic battery in line with other battery charges. In 2016, Russia voted to reduce the charges of assault and battery from criminal to administrative offenses if the incident did not lead to actual bodily harm.
Mizulina was instrumental in implementing the anti-LGBT “Gay propaganda” law, which criminalized any positive portrayal of same-sex relationships. The law has been decried around the world as a human rights abuse, but Russian legislators insist that the law is necessary to protect children.
Mizulina is using the same tack to push the domestic violence law.
“In the traditional family culture in Russia, parent-child relationships are built on the authority of the parents’ power,” Mizulina said in a speech to the duma on Wednesday. “The laws should support that family tradition.”
On Twitter, Mizulina wrote, “If you slap your mischievous kid, you’re threatened with up to two years [in prison]. But if your neighbor beats your child — everything ends with an administrative punishment.”
She went on, “How many more families will waste police resources, while the duma discusses [the proposed changes]? There are 20 million families with children in the Russian Federation. All of them are in danger.”
Если вы шлепнули своего расшалившегося малыша, вам грозит до 2х лет. А если ваш сосед побил вашего ребенка — все закончится адм. наказанием.
— Елена Мизулина (@emizulina) January 11, 2017
Feminists and human rights activists around the world responded with horror and alarm.
Russian activist Alyona Popova said on Facebook, “These lawmakers believe that fines for domestic tyrants is better than criminal liability.”
“These people didn’t propose legislation that would improve the court system or the law enforcement, they just supported transferring liability into fines. It means that an offender will now beat [his relatives] and pay a small fine,” Popova said.
The Moscow Times said, “According to Russian government statistics, 40 percent of all violent crimes are committed within the family. The figures correlate to 36,000 women being beaten by their partners every day and 26,000 children being assaulted by their parents every year.”