Russia Lightens Punishments For Some Domestic Violence Offenses

Russia Lightens Punishments For Some Domestic Violence Offenses
A new Russian law reduces the penalty for hitting a spouse or child without causing serious injury.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that drastically reduces the punishment for domestic violence.

The new law sets the maximum penalty for domestic violence at 15 days in prison, provided the violence doesn't inflict any serious injury and doesn't happen more than once a year. The previous maximum sentence was two years in prison.

Serious injuries are categorized as a concussion or broken bones. If a physical altercation causes bruises or draws blood, it would not be considered serious enough for criminal charges.

The bill has drawn international condemnation, but it sailed through Russia's legislature with more than 85 percent support.

Those in favor of the law say it brings domestic violence punishments more in line with penalties for other forms of assault and restores "traditional family values."

But critics say this essentially gives men a pass to hit their partners and children.

"The message basically is that bruises are OK. And it sort of echoes the response that police usually give to victims of domestic violence," Yulia Gorbunova of Human Rights Watch told CNN.

Domestic violence is seriously underreported in Russia. A state-run news agency said domestic violence kills 12,000 women in Russia every year.

Correction: Our previous headline made it sound as though all instances of domestic violence have been decriminalized in Russia. We've updated the headline to clarify that domestic violence resulting in severe injury is still considered a criminal offense.