According to an article in today’s “Kommersant” newspaper, one of Russia’s most respected publications, the Justice Ministry has replied to a letter from the European Court of Human Justice. The letter, according to “Kommersant” says that “The Russian government does not consider ‘domestic violence’ to be a serious problem and that its scale in the country is ‘sufficiently exaggerated’.”
The letter followed the application of four Russian women, victims of domestic violence, to the European court. One had defended herself with a knife, after her partner tried to throw her from a 16 floor balcony, another had suffered regular beatings, only to be told by police that after the decriminalization of domestic violence, nothing could be done. A third had suffered regular beatings, including one during the court hearing on her application for divorce. The fourth, after asking for a divorce was dragged into a forest and had her arms broken by an axe.
In an absolutely incredible letter replying to the court, the Justice Ministry writes: “Unfortunately, there is domestic violence in Russia, as in any country… but the scale of the problem, both in terms of the seriousness and numbers, as well as their discriminatory impact on women is sufficiently exaggerated … even if you accept that the majority of people suffering from domestic violence in Russia are actually women, although there is no evidence to suggest that this is so, it is logical to suggest that it is male victims who suffer most from discrimination in such cases. They are in a minority, and they do not usually request protection from the violent actions of other family members, especially if they suffer at the hands of someone of the opposite sex”. Further on the document points out that according to the statistics on violent crime, the “majority who suffer are men”!
Russian legislation, the Ministry argues is based on “the full adherence to the ‘protection of the family’ approach, according to which excessive interventions by the state into private and family life is considered a breach of the rights to privacy and the inviolability of private life”.
Fact-check: According to the Levada Center polling agency, nearly one-third of Russians have encountered domestic violence in their own families or among acquaintances. About 14,000 women, one woman every 40 minutes die in Russia each year at the hands of husbands or other relatives, according to a 2010 United Nations report.
This reply appears just a week after the horrific case was revealed of a Professor of the St Petersburg State University who was discovered one night, climbing into one of the city’s canals, dressed as Napoleon and with the hacked off arms of one of his students in a bag. She had pulled a knife on him, he complained, although he then admitted she did this only after he had shot her with a sawn off shotgun.
Most disgracefully this individual had a reputation – in 2008 another female student claimed he had beaten and tortured her when she tried to end a relationship with him, but the University failed to act on this, or later incidents.
Now excuses are being made. Some say he was unstable. His lawyer has even suggested that one of his suggested defences will be that the moon was at its peak on that night and that it is a “medically proven fact” that the moon can initiate psychotic attacks.
The truth however, is that this is just one more horrific example of how the Russian regime with its right wing conservative values, are creating the conditions in which domestic violence is not just accepted but in reality considered to be a normal state of affairs. But no longer can they say that they have the support of the population. One recent poll suggested that 57% of people are against decriminalization of domestic violence and 41% think that the three young women who recently killed their father to escape his abuse were justified. It is not surprising that a growing number are prepared to speak out and protest on these issues.