A bill proposing to decriminalise domestic violence passed its first reading in the Russian State Duma today. The shocking news comes courtesy of the Moscow Times, which reports that 368 members of Russia's parliament voted in favour of the bill while one voted against it and another abstained from voting. The Moscow Times explains that the bill would change Russia's Criminal Code. "Battery within families" would be recategorised as an administrative offence instead of a criminal offence, unless it occurs multiple times a year. The bill was proposed by conservative lawmaker Yelena Mizulina, who began the process in 2016 after Presiden Vladimir Putin reclassified other forms of assault and battery that "did not cause actual bodily harm." Mizulina was adamant that criminalising familial violence goes against traditional family values and blocks parents' rights to beat their children. “Punishments [for offences] can not contradict the system of social values that society holds on to,” Mizulina said in a speech opening Wednesday's vote in the Duma. “In Russian traditional family culture parent-child relationships are built on the authority of the parents' power... The laws should support that family tradition.” Women's rights activists opposed the bill, claiming that it would make survivors of domestic violence more susceptible and powerless. In a Facebook post (you can click translate to read it in full), activist Alyona Popova wrote, "These people didn't propose legislation that would improve the court system or the law enforcement, they just supported transferring liability into fines. It means that an offender will now beat [his relatives] and pay a small fine."
This is only the latest controversial move by Russian lawmakers. In 2013, Mizulina introduced Russia's "Gay Propaganda Law," formally known as "For the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values." That bill passed, banning the public depiction and celebration of LGBT rights culture in Russia.