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Russia’s State Duma passes law on decriminalizing domestic violence

A total of 385 MPs voted in favor of the law

MOSCOW, January 25. /TASS/. Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, passed in the second reading on Wednesday a law making domestic violence an administrative rather than criminal offence if this happens for the first time.

A total of 385 MPs voted in favor of the law, two others opposed the measure and one lawmaker abstained. Legislator Olga Batalina, one of the authors of the law, called to consider it in the third reading on January 27.

The document amends Article 116 of the Russian Criminal Code by excluding physical assaults on relatives from criminal offences while a person who commits the repeated assaults will be prosecuted according to criminal law, the authors say.

In cases of repeated assaults, a defendant will face a fine of up to 40,000 rubles ($676), compulsory community service for up to six months or an arrest for up to three months. This concerns assaults that inflict physical pain but do not cause serious bodily injury. If there is any threat to the person’s health, the attacker will face criminal charges.

The administrative offence for first-time physical assaults envisages a fine of up to 30,000 rubles ($507), an arrest up to 15 days or compulsory community service up to 120 hours.

Public opinion

The proposal to decriminalize family violence sparked a public uproar. Russia’s State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the law was "high-profile" and promised to take into account public opinion during the second reading.

On Tuesday, the speaker told reporters that public opinion polls showed that 59% of respondents came out against tough punishment for minor conflicts in the family that did not result in any serious bodily harm, or impairment.

Meanwhile, Batalina stressed that most Russians condemn domestic violence but support the initiative of easing penalties for first-time assaults, according to the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center. "Moreover, a significant number of the respondents say that the measure will lead to reducing the number of assaults in the family."

The State Duma passed the law decriminalizing assaults against family members in the first reading on January 11. The measure was proposed by a group of MPs and members of the Federation Council after assaulting strangers had been decriminalized this past summer. Under the law, similar assaults against relatives remained a criminal offence. This led to debates among the general public on why assaulting strangers should be viewed as administrative offence, while violence against family members should be regarded as criminal offence.

In late 2016, activists from the All-Russia Parents Resistance (RVS), a public organization, collected more than 213,000 signatures and later submitted them to the presidential administration protesting "anti-family provisions" of the law passed this summer. The Russian president backed the group’s appeal during his annual news conference in December.

According to Batalina, the adoption of the law will "balance the situation" and "return logics to the norms of the Criminal Code."