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Moscow Women's Group Plans Rally To Condemn Domestic Violence

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A Russian women’s rights group, SotsFem Alternativa, says it has permission to hold a rally in central Moscow to commemorate the UN’s international day for the elimination of violence against women on November 25.

The group said on various social media platforms that city authorities allowed up to 200 people to assemble at Yauzskiye Vorota in the centrally located district of Kitai Gorod for three hours beginning at 6 p.m. local time.

The organization, which on Facebook says it links women’s issues "not only with the patriarchal [society], but also with economic oppression from the capitalist system," recently published an analysis of a proposed bill on domestic violence.

Russia is the only country in the Council of Europe that has no criminal statute on domestic violence. Of the 47 member states, only Russia and Azerbaijan have failed to sign the 2011 Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence.

More than 40 times over the last decade, bills on domestic violence have been introduced in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, but none of them has passed even the first reading.

Urgent calls for such a law gained traction after 63-year-old historian Oleg Sokolov earlier this month killed his partner and former student Anastasia Yeshchenko, who was nearly 40 years younger than him.

However, conservative groups have opposed criminalizing gender-based violence.

On November 23, activists from the Coordinating Council for the Protection of Public Morality, Culture and Traditional Family Values held several protests in Moscow and other cities opposing the legislation.

In October, more than 180 "traditional values" organizations and their regional branches signed an open letter denouncing the latest proposed bill as a purported product of "gender ideology" and an "instrument for the fundamental and forcible alteration of the basic foundations of Russian society and the destruction of our traditional family and moral values."

In 2016, the Interior Ministry reported that 64,421 violent offenses were committed within the family, with 29,465 of them committed against a spouse or partner. In the vast majority of those cases, the victim was a woman.

Activists counter that the actual figures on domestic violence are likely much higher because such crimes are significantly underreported -- and when they are reported, police often refuse to register the complaint.

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