Over the summer of this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had an interview with the Russian Justice Ministry to get more insight on domestic and sexual violence in Russia. When asked, the Russian government acknowledged that violence exists in Russia, but it also exists everywhere else in the world. Even though violent behavior is not enforced, the Russian government does not see domestic and/or sexual violence as a serious threat within their country. They believe physical violence is an issue of “exaggeration” and that Russian women, in particular, feel inclined to raise the severity of physical abuse to garner attention for themselves . However, according to Levada Center an independent polling agency, they found that roughly “one-third of Russian citizens have experienced domestic violence among their own families or acquaintances” . Crimes against domestic and sexual violence are often decriminalized, causing many preparators to deal with little to no punishment. The cases of Valeriya Volodina, Margarita Gracheva, and the Khachaturyan sisters are important examples of domestic abuse in Russia. The purpose of this paper is for the Russian government to prioritize domestic and/or sexual violence by thoroughly regulating and reinforcing domestic and/or sexual violence laws to give justice to the victims traumatized by their preparators.
According to a 2010 United Nations report, nearly “14,000 women die in Russia each year at the hands of their husbands or other relatives” with thousands of more victims suffering from domestic and/or sexual violence. One of those victims includes Valeriya Volodina, a woman who had been assaulted, stalked, and even kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend. Volodina was forced to have an abortion after her former partner had “punched her in the face and stomach when she was pregnant” . She had her identity papers stolen and also a GPS tracker had been planted into her purse by the same partner. Volodina had reported all of these incidents to the police numerous times over two years, but the police never acknowledge nor opened a criminal investigation against her former partner who committed all these acts of violence against her. After seeking help from outside the country, Volodina finally receives help from the ECHR and was the first Russian case to win a fight against domestic violence. The issue of domestic violence has been a problem the judicial system has ignored for many years and the Russian government has not helped the cause either. “In February 2017, President Vladimir Putin approved a law to decriminalize most forms of domestic violence, downgrading punishments for first-time offenders.” . As a favored leader among many Russian citizens, Putin has never addressed the issue of domestic violence even though it affected nearly one-third of the country’s population. As an upbringing leader who has helped restore the country after the fall of the Soviet Union, who has helped the economy grow, and who has helped Russia to transition into a new modern era, he has not addressed issues that affect people on a smaller scale. Russia’s current policy on domestic violence and Putin’s contribution will be furthered analyzed as we discuss the other two domestic crime cases.
Among the many victims affected by domestic and/or sexual crime lies another famous case, the story of Margarita Gracheva. Given more background information on the matter, “In December 2017, Margarita Gracheva’s husband drove her into a forest, where he chopped off her hands with an ax” . Not surprisingly, when Gracheva reported her husband to the police about his psychotic and abusive behavior before the incident, the authorities did not take her seriously, ignored her requests, or did nothing to help her out. Many reported cases of domestic violence end up the same, which makes it a serious issue when people feel uncomfortable or unsafe in their own homes. Domestic and/or sexual violence in Russia is frequently “viewed as a private, family matter” . Many people believe, what occurs within a family household is private business and has nothing to do with the authorities. This is not only false, but it creates an environment that prevents people from seeking help when they truly need it the most. Back in February 2017, when Putin had passed a law decriminalizing first-time domestic abuse offenders, many more people have fallen victim to domestic violence. First-time violent offenders did not have to worry about being sent to jail, instead, they would have to pay off a small fine for their crimes. It was already difficult for perpetrators to be caught and convicted of a crime, but the newly passed law would now make it nearly impossible. It could take months or even years (Valeriya Volodina’s case) for the victim to convince the authorities they suffered physical/mental damaged from their abuser. Hiring a lawyer and having a court hearing would also stray people away from reporting their abuse, because it was expensive, draining, and time-consuming. The government’s lack of attention, a corrupt judicial system, a lack of punishment for crime committers, and fear of the victim’s life are some of the reasons why Russia needs to reevaluate its policy on domestic violence.
The last and more recent case on domestic and/or sexual violence discussed in this paper will focus on the Khachaturyan sisters. The story about the Khachaturyan sisters involves “three teenage sisters who killed their father after suffering years of physical and sexual abuse” and are faced with murder charges against their dead father . They claimed that their father had beaten them and sexually harass them daily, and they could no longer tolerate his behavior and actions towards them. Similar to Margarita Gracheva, the girls did not have anyone they could turn to because their perpetrator was a family member, and many believed the problem was a family issue rather than acts of violent crimes. This news has sparked a lot of controversy in terms of issues among murder, domestic violence, and self-defense coming from young murderers. It has also “sheds light on the plight of domestic violence victims in Russia” as the case is an indictment that something needs to change, in terms of resolving domestic violence in Russia . This case brought more awareness of domestic violence, but it also sprung many concerns regarding the government. Many people still believe that the Khachaturyan sisters should be held accountable for their actions and should be punished for it. This is a contradiction because their father was never held responsible for what he had done to both his wife and daughters. He never received the punishment he deserved. Only until he had broken the spirits of all his daughters, giving them the incentive to release be from their pain and suffering did he finally got what he deserved. Protests were held fighting against the government to make changes to the judicial system regarding domestic violence because it is one of the few ways people can learn about the negative aspects of society. That’s why groups like the Pussy Riots and other artistic people use their influence to spread awareness of events against society norms. To save thousands of victims from domestic and/or sexual violence in Russia, there need to be changes made on policies for domestic abuse.
It is acknowledged that domestic and/or sexual violence can affect anyone regardless of their gender. During the same interview with the ECHR, the Justice Ministry says “that men, not women, are the unsung victims of domestic violence” . Male victims are indeed are less likely to report about their experiences, but most of the prejudice lies against women. Furthermore, Russia “has no domestic violence law and does not treat domestic violence as a stand-alone criminal offense” . This caused police and other judicial authorities to treat victims (like Valeriya Volodina and Margarita Gracheva) with hospitality and prevented them to register or have an open investigation on their perpetrators. Russian law does not provide any domestic crime protection orders to victims. It would be essential to offer this service to victims so that it would keep men or women safe from experiencing reoccurring violence by their family members of acquaintances . However, with the Russian government turning a blind eye against domestic violence victims and refusing to take further actions to protect its citizens we may see shortly protests fighting for policy changes for domestic violence.
The cases of Valeriya Volodina, Margarita Gracheva, and the Khachaturyan sisters are huge steppingstones in bringing domestic policy change in Russia. In each scenario, there was a lack of cooperation from the police and notable prejudice among women. This is shown when authorities refused to help the victims and refused to be involved in what was considered “family matters”. Then we had President Putin, who implemented a law where first-time domestic violence committers did not have to serve jail time. Instead of helping domestic violence victims from capturing their preparators, this allowed the abusers to continue to behave violently and not be punished for their wrongdoings. Russian society has not changed their ideas upon domestic violence and does not take the topic seriously. They are in the mindset that when a man gets violent with a woman, it means they love them but that is far from the truth. It is nearly impossible for domestic and/or sexual victims to seek the help they need because of how messed up the Russian government is. There is no haven for the victims, as they are put through a vicious cycle of getting physically/mentally abused from their perpetrator and not able to escape from it. That is why the Russian government needs to prioritize domestic and/or sexual violence by thoroughly regulating and reinforcing domestic and/or sexual violence laws to give justice to the victims traumatized by their preparators. If the Russian government continues to turn a blind eye against domestic violence victims and refusing to take further actions to protect its citizens, we may see shortly protests fighting for policy changes for domestic violence. No matter who the future leader of Russia will be, the issue of domestic violence needs to take into consideration the safety of its citizens. If there is no change to the current Russian system, it can be speculated that protests for human rights will cause havoc in the country until something is done.
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