Amnesty International has urged Russia not to adopt legislation decriminalizing some forms of assault in the family home, calling it a "sickening attempt to trivialize domestic violence" that would undermine already weak protections against abuse.
The human rights group said that authors of a bill given almost unanimous approval last week in the first of three readings in Russia's lower parliament house were "betraying the victims of domestic violence and effectively giving their abusers a free pass."
"Claims that this will somehow protect families or preserve traditions are ludicrous," London-based Amnesty International said in a statement on January 19.
The bill would downgrade assault inside the "traditional family unit" from a criminal offense to a misdemeanor, removing a distinction that has existed since some cases of street assault were legally decriminalized in 2016.
To become law, it must pass two more votes in the State Duma and one in the upper house, which would send it to President Vladimir Putin for his signature. Both chambers are dominated by the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party.
Amnesty International said that if Russian lawmakers "are really concerned about protecting families, they must halt these plans and instead put together a comprehensive package of measures...to address the vast scale of domestic violence in Russia."