A “historic” decision according to victims’ rights defenders, but “insufficient”. Russian justice on Friday ordered a tougher sanction against repeat domestic violence offenders.
According to NGOs, domestic violence against women and children is a real scourge in Russia, and they have long called for specific legislation that is much more severe.
The issue of recidivism
“Article 116-1 of the Russian penal code (on administrative sanctions for beatings, editor’s note) is not constitutional. The legislator must make changes to the penal code, ”the Constitutional Court said in a statement.
Since a 2017 reform, domestic violence that does not result in bodily injury or incapacity is generally considered an administrative offense and not a criminal offense, often even in the event of a repeat offense. The sentences handed down are therefore limited to fines or community service sentences.
“The legislator should not have ignored recidivism, because it testifies to an increased danger for society, illustrates the persistence of the behavior of the culprit and his tendency to resolve conflicts by violence”, added the Court, according to its communicated. The court considers that the State must “equip itself with stricter penal means”, failing which “the protection of the rights of victims will be restricted”.
The court was seized by a woman beaten repeatedly by her brother who, despite the repeat offense, was sentenced in 2019 to 100 hours of community service.
A first step?
This decision “is historic for modern Russia,” said Andrei Sinelnikov, deputy director of the ANNA Center which helps victims. “But this is, we hope, only a first step which will lead to the adoption of a set of measures for the defense and prevention of these crimes,” he added.
One of the most urgent measures, according to him, is the creation of “removal orders” to prohibit, under penalty of criminal sanction, a suspect of violence to approach his victims. “Most murders take place when the woman tries to leave the man and he pursues her,” explains Andrei Sinelnikov.
In the absence of official statistics, specialist associations estimate the number of Russian women victims of domestic violence at 16.5 million. MP Oksana Pushkina, one of the few voices of the Kremlin United Russia party to campaign for an increased repression of domestic violence, estimated at the end of 2019 that 80% of Russian families were affected by the problem.
The decriminalization of this violence was carried by the conservative currents, very influential, within the regime of Vladimir Putin, in particular the powerful Russian Orthodox Church. The latter considers that justice, by interfering in homes, would break families which is “incompatible with the traditional spiritual and moral values of Russia”. The NGOs also point the finger at the culture of indifference, even the negligence of the police officers who often treat cases of domestic violence with disinterest.