Russia’s parliament voted 380-3 on Friday to decriminalize domestic violence in cases where it does not cause “substantial bodily harm” and does not occur more than once a year.
The move, which eliminates criminal liability in such cases, makes a violation punishable by a fine of roughly $500, or a 15-day arrest, provided there is no repeat within 12 months.
The bill now goes to the rubber-stamp upper chamber, where no opposition is expected. It then must be signed by President Vladimir Putin, who has signaled his support.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists that family conflicts do “not necessarily constitute domestic violence.”
The passage by the parliament, or Duma, reverses a ruling by the Supreme Court last year, subsequently backed by parliament, that decriminalized battery that does not inflict bodily harm, but retained criminal charges involving battery against family members. That reform is effectively reversed by Friday’s vote.
Andrei Isayev of the main Kremlin faction, the United Russia, said lawmakers are “heeding the public call” by correcting a mistake they made last year.
Russia is one of three countries in Europe and Central Asia that do not have laws specifically targeting domestic violence, according to The Economist.
Critics of the new measure warned it would encourage domestic violence and fuel crime.
“This bill would establish violence as a norm of conduct,” Communist lawmaker Yuri Sinelshchikov said during the debate.
Women’s rights lawyer Mari Davtyan told The Moscow Times that the legislative moves are dangerous and “send a message that the state doesn’t consider familial battery fundamentally wrong anymore.”
A survey this month by state-run pollster VTsIOM found 19% of Russians said “it can be acceptable” to hit one’s wife, husband or child “in certain circumstances,” the Associated Press reported. The nationwide poll by phone of 1,800 people was held Jan. 13-15. The survey had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.
SOURCE: Doug Stanglin