MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 28, 2018: Russia's High Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova addresses a crowd in Russia in October 2018. (Photo by Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images)
Sergei Savostyanov—Sergei Savostyanov/TASS
By George Steer
December 4, 2018

One of Russia’s top human rights officials has admitted a decision taken early 2017 to soften domestic violence laws was “a mistake”.

“I believe that decriminalization was a mistake and that we need to adopt a law to combat domestic abuse,” Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova told a conference on Monday.

In February 2017, Vladimir Putin signed off on a law that partially decriminalized domestic violence. Attacks resulting in “minor harm,” such as small lacerations and bruising, were to be considered misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $500 or up to 15 days in jail. Since then, human rights activists say that domestic violence complaints have skyrocketed.

Although the law had been controversial in the Russian media, the bill was passed almost unanimously in the socially conservative legislature, with just three of 380 lawmakers voting against it, according to The Moscow Times. The law was justified on the grounds that parents should not be punished more strictly for disciplining their own children than strangers who attack minors.

But Moskalkova, who had reportedly supported the bill at first, came out against it on Tuesday.

“Today, a person who is in the family space is not protected from family members who do harm unto them without it being considered a crime,” added Moskalkova, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

Domestic violence is widely acknowledged to be a huge problem in Russia. According to Russian interior ministry estimates, 600,000 women are victims of domestic abuse every year and 14,000 die from injuries inflicted by husbands or partners each year.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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