Russia votes to decriminalise domestic violence

Domestic violence (iStock)
Supporters say it follows tradition (iStock / file)

After an overwhelming majority in parliament, Russia is set to decriminalise some forms of domestic violence.

The bill, which passed 308-3 on Friday (local time), now just awaits Russian president Vladimir Putin's signature before it's finally approved.

It means domestic assaults that don't leave serious or lasting injuries, such as broken bones or concussions, would be treated as an administrative offense, with a fine of up to 30,000 roubles (NZ$690), 15 days jail or community service.

Repeat offenders within the same year would then face criminal charges. 

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) says it's a "huge step backward" for the nation, as domestic violence victims already struggle for help or justice.

"The domestic violence bill would reduce penalties for abusers and put victims' lives at even greater risk," says HRW's Yulia Gorbunova.

Yelena Mizulina introduced the bill and says it follows tradition.

"In the traditional Russian family culture, relations between 'fathers and sons' are built upon the authority of parents' power, mutual love and personal indispensability as the basis for children's upbringing," she said.

Ms Mizulina was also behind Russia's law forbidding the "propaganda of homosexuality", which was approved in 2013.

Domestic violence had been exempt from a law introduced in 2016 which decriminalised battery that doesn't result in serious harm. The new law brings this into line with the rest of the battery laws.

According to the Associated Press, Russian police officers are often reluctant to respond to domestic violence calls, seeing it as meddling in family affairs.

Around 40 percent of all violent crimes in Russia are committed within the family, with women and children often the victims, HRW says.

Ms Gorbunova says it's "shameful" people see domestic violence as "family values".

"The proposed legislation is a massive setback to efforts to eradicate domestic violence, domestically and internationally," she says.

"Rather than weakening existing laws, Russia should adopt tougher ones to prevent domestic violence, protect victims, and hold abusers to account."