Protests against decriminalization of domestic violence in Russia spread to Europe

Activists protesting in Paris against decriminalization of domestic violence in Russia on Feb 19, 2017

February 19, 2017 a group of activists gathered in Paris at Place de la Résistance to protests against decriminalization of domestic violence in Russia.

This rally gathered a people from the leading French universities Sciences Po and la Sorbonne, members of the French association Russie-Libertés, and other French and Russian activists and human rights advocates such as a coordinator of the Russian program at Amnesty International France Anne Nerdrum and a Russian human rights activist and ecologist Nadezhda Kutepova. This event organized by a French association Russie-Libertés and a Russian activist Ekaterina Petrikevich took place in front of the Russian Cultural and Spiritual Center and the Holy Trinity Cathedral in order to raise people’s awareness about domestic violence in Russia.

On February 7, 2017 president Vladimir Putin signed a bill that decriminalizes battery which had previously been prosecuted under Art. 116 of the Russian Criminal Code. The bill came into force immediately after its publication transforming battery into an administrative offense punishable by an up to 30.000 rubles (485EUR) fine, 15 days in jail, or 120 hours of communal services.

According to the official statement from Anna Kirey, Deputy Director for Campaigns for Russia and Eurasia at Amnesty International, “while the Russian government claims this reform will ‘protect family values’, in reality it rides roughshod over women’s rights.”

The protesters also voiced their strong concern about a step back in modernization of the Russian society and demanded the Russian government to reconsider all forms of domestic violence as a criminal offense and to increase the punitive provisions. During the protest participants handed out information about their petition and committed to organize other events to further support this cause.

“We fight to support Russian women and to face up against this step back towards violence, in order to prove that it’s not a Russian tradition and that it cannot be seen as a value of any modern society! Human relations shouldn’t be built upon authority and power, especially within a family, where love and respect should prevail over force!” states Olga Prokopieva, a member of Russie-Libertés and a co-organizer of the event.

Similar protests took place this month in Moscow, St Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, and other Russian cities, highlighting the gravity of the issue and citizens’ strong determination to take an initiative. “There have been so much happening in the world, that it seems like people got used to everything and are ready to accept anything as a norm, victories of the populists, infringement of the rights… That’s why I wanted to meet and to talk to people who care… It is easier to resist and to move ahead when you see that you’re not alone,” notes Zoya Bragina, one of the participants.

However not everyone agrees with the activists. During the event, a man who introduced himself as a journalist from Sputnik français, previously known as RIA Novosti français, tried to interrupt Olga Prokopieva during her speech by stating that this protest spreads false facts and misinforms the public.

Around 10. 000 women die yearly as a result of domestic violence in Russia, in other words, domestic violence kills one woman every 45 minutes. To compare, in 2015, France, a country of 66.9 million, witnessed 115 women killed as a consequence of domestic violence. This number is ten times less than the Russian statistics, even though Russia’s population is only twice as big as France.

Russia is a state party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These two international instruments recognize domestic violence as a form of discrimination. The Constitution of the Russian Federation also has a non-discrimination clause that guarantees the equality of rights and freedoms of each citizen and vouches to protect their fundamental rights.

Inês Soldado and Ekaterina Petrikevich

To sign the petition against domestic violence in Russia, please use this link