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Russian lawmakers propose urgent measures to curb domestic violence during self-isolation

Source: RBC

Three lawmakers behind a bill that would recriminalize domestic violence in Russia have asked Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova to exempt victims of such abuse from punishment for violating quarantine restrictions, RBC reports. 

In their appeal to Golikova, the three State Duma deputies warn that the number of domestic violence complaints has been increasing since the introduction of self-isolation orders. As such, the lawmakers are asking the government to support urgent measures to protect victims of domestic violence, who are now at risk of becoming trapped in escalating cycles of abuse.

The number of calls to a nationwide helpline for women reportedly increased 24 percent between February and March this year, rising from 2,050 calls in February to 2,537 calls in March. Moscow’s Kitezh Women’s Crisis Center also saw a 15 percent rise in appeals, while the Vologda Crisis Center saw a three-fold increase in reports of violence, the letter from the deputies says.

Furthermore, there has reportedly been a 40-percent increase in the number of women with children in Russia who are now left without housing after losing their jobs because of the quarantine restrictions. 

State Duma deputy Oksana Pushkina told RBC that there is an urgent need to introduce protections. She says it will take “decades to treat” the pandemic’s impact on domestic violence victims, unless a special law is adopted.

The deputies proposed a variety of measures, including exempting domestic violence victims from liability for violating lockdown restrictions, ensuring a sufficient number of crisis shelters, helping victims gain access to medical and psychological support, and requiring the police to respond immediately to domestic violence reports.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has also made repeated appeals to protect women and girls from a “horrifying global surge in domestic violence,” in connection with lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Golikova’s office told RBC that she has yet to receive the letter, but maintained that it will be “considered in the prescribed manner” when it arrives. 

On April 16, the speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, said the consideration of the bill on domestic violence has been put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic and will resume “when the circumstances allow it.”

Summary by Eilish Hart

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