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Duma rescinds criminal penalties for domestic abuse

The State Duma approved a bill on the decriminalization of domestic abuse during its third and final reading on Friday. There were 380 votes for the bill and three votes against it. The voting was broadcasted on the official Duma website. The bill was intended to correct what was seen as discrepancy between punishment for domestic violence and beatings on the street, as the latter were considered a civil offense.

“[Before] if a single mother slapped her son, she was [convicted of a criminal offense], while a strange guy on the street was punished [according to civil law],” said United Russia deputy Andrei Isayev during the hearing.

The bill has made domestic violence – specifically defined as the beating of a relative – a civil offense, with criminal liability applicable in only those cases when the offense is committed two or more times in the same year. In the latter situation, perpetrators will be subjected to a maximum criminal penalty of imprisonment for up to three months.

It will still be considered a criminal offense if domestic violence is perpetrated as an act of hooliganism or is motivated by hatred or enmity. In such cases, perpetrators could be sentenced to compulsory work or to up to two years in prison.

Isayev reminded the Duma that criminal liability for domestic abuse has led to the emergence of “Pavlik Morozovs” in Europe, referring to situations in which courts deprived mothers and fathers of parental rights as a result of children’s statements. Morovoz was a Soviet youth who informed on his father to the authorities and was subsequently killed by his family. He was praised by the media as a martyr.

Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party and Communist Party spoke out against the new bill.

The civil punishment for beatings comes in the form of a fine of 5 to 30 thousand rubles (approximately $82-$498), arrest for a term of 10 to 15 days, or 60 to 120 hours of compulsory work.

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