Discussion in Russia about domestic violence has gotten more serious over the past few years, and a showdown seems to be on the horizon. While Russian society has gradually moved toward recognizing women’s right to be safe from abusers, and while horrifying statistics have signaled a national crisis, actual policymaking has followed a different course. Most notably, the government in 2017 decriminalized first-time battery committed in the home; guilt is punishable by a mere fine.
Since then, several outrageous cases have focused more attention on the issue, and public opinion is swinging toward harsher penalties for domestic violence. According to state pollster Public Opinion Foundation, 57 percent of those queried believe decriminalizing domestic violence is a bad idea, versus 44 percent in 2016.
Among the cases that particularly incensed Russians was the story of Margarita Gracheva, a young mother of two whose husband in December 2017 took her to the forest, where he beat her and chopped off her hands. Gracheva had previously lodged complaints of assault and stalking, but police did not take action, instead pressuring her to withdraw her complaint, calling the husband’s behavior a “declaration of love.”
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