Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on Russian lawmakers to amend a long-awaited draft law addressing domestic violence in order to bring it in line with international standards and include key protections for victims.
“Without providing victims with sufficient protection and recourse measures, the law risks being no more than an empty shell,” Yulia Gorbunova, senior Europe and Central Asia researcher at the New York-based watchdog, said in a statement on December 9.
In a letter sent last week to the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council, HRW said the proposed legislation should include a “complete, comprehensive definition of domestic violence, which may include physical, sexual, economic, and emotional abuse.”
The group called for measures on “protection and access to justice for victims of domestic violence every step of the way, from the moment they first seek help from the authorities.”
The draft law should also ensure that the list of people who may be affected by domestic violence includes close relatives and extended family, as well as former or current spouses or partners, regardless of whether the abuser shares or has shared a residence with the victim, according to HRW.
If adopted, the bill would be Russia’s first law addressing domestic violence.
HRW said current Russian law does not recognize domestic violence as a stand-alone offense, leading to a lack of reliable or comprehensive statistics.
Police often refuse to respond to or investigate domestic violence complaints, it added.
Russian nongovernmental organizations, human rights’ advocates, and some policymakers, have been pushing for the country to adopt a law on domestic violence for more than 20 years.
Meanwhile, public awareness about domestic violence have increased in recent years, partly in response to a number of severe cases that have made the headlines.
“The momentum to adopt domestic violence legislation in Russia has been building for decades and it would be a shame to waste this opportunity,” Gorbunova said.