Gender equality commission of the KTR: “Violence without violence” is impossible!

Violence without violence” is impossible!
Gender equality commission of the KTR against amendments to article 116 of the Criminal Code

Nowadays there are certain law provisions directly aimed against domestic violence in 123 states including almost all the countries of the CIS. In 2015 the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, having reviewed the 8th periodic report of the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women submitted by Russia, once again made it clear that there was no consistent approach to addressing and eliminating domestic violence. However, Russian legislators lack the political will and lead the country in the opposite direction.

11 January 2017 the amendments to article 116 of the Criminal Code (regarding the decriminalization of battery) were adopted on first reading by the majority of the State Duma (the lower house of Russia’s parliament). By “battery” the Criminal Code implies acts which cause physical pain but lead to no serious consequences for health. At present, ones who beat family members could face up to two years’ imprisonment. According to the new bill, persons physically ill-treating their relatives may be only subjected to administrative penalty. Meanwhile, fines are paid to the state, not to the victims. May seem like, on the one hand, the legislators make it clear to the potential offenders that they will not be seriously prosecuted for battery since, in the words of notorious Yelena Mizulina, this is «violence without violence». Оn the other hand, invite the state to “profit” from domestic battery.

The legislators are trying to shade the significance of the bill calling it the “slapping law”; they announce that the state should not interfere in family matters. The law is being adopted in a hurry with no public debates, parliamentary hearings or in-depth analysis of its social and economic consequences.

In the meantime domestic violence is extensive and damaging to the society. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 600 000 females are subjected to violence perpetrated by their partners and up to 3 000 children die by the hands of their parents every year. According to Russian studies, physical violence is used by 25-40% of husbands against their wives. And even though this kind of domestic violence does not always lead to serious bodily harm, for the victims any act of violence (or even the threat of it) is an attempt to violate bodily security with serious mental implications which in their turn may lead to the development of psychosomatic diseases and even cancer. As a rule, physical violence (regardless of its severity) goes hand in hand with other displays of power and control – mental, economic and sexual abuse. Children witnessing “battery/violence without violence” learn bad lessons about the admissibility of domestic violence and “pick up the torch”.

The International Labour Organization and the international trade union movement have repeatedly noted negative effects of domestic violence on social labour sphere. It is reported that two thirds of the females exposed to domestic violence are employed and the violence experienced by them affects their work. The victims may experience a high level of anxiety, fatigue; they demonstrate problems with focusing and performance decrement. Enforced absence or late attendance, family member stalking will have a negative impact on the victim’s work status. It is known that the wife’s work activity and attendance often provide an opportunity for emotional attacks by abusive husbands. They express dissatisfaction with the wives employment itself, make obstacles to their wives’ work, imposing “special” conditions for it. Wives’ work is devaluated with comments like “you only go there to drink tea”, any support is not given even when it comes to distribution of unpaid domestic work.

Work collectives to which the victims belong to may also suffer adverse effects. The workload may be redistributed, shifts may be covered because of the victim’s decreasing professional effectiveness which in turn gives rise to the antagonism in the collective, leads to high staff turnover. Domestic violence experienced by a female employee hinders her career growth, reduces her wages and may lead to job loss. Domestic violence, therefore, even in its “milder” forms can put a woman out of a quality job, deprive her of her economic independence which will only increase her dependence on her aggressive partner.

Violence may also have a negative impact in the reversed direction. Research shows that an unhealthy work climate in companies with violent practices and norms of behavior often results in members of these collectives being aggressive at home. That is why the International Confederation of Labour encourages trade unions and employers to maintain the zero-tolerance policy for violence both at work and within the family. It is impossible to overcome gender inequality in the labour market without these measures.

In view of the above, Gender Equality Commission of the KTR considers the stance of the drafters to be fallacious and potentially harmful to the family our deputies claim to “care” so much about; to the gender equality in social labour sphere, to many male and female citizens whose interests they are supposed to represent. We join experts and public organizations speaking out against the draft bill decriminalizing domestic violence and we demand to reject its adoption. The alternative should only be to adopt a separate law aimed to ensure effective measures for domestic violence prevention, the punishment of perpetrators, victim assistance.