The Decriminalization of Domestic Violence in Russia
- Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization
- Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University
- Volume 28, Number 1, Winter 2020
- pp. 15-45
- View Citation
- Additional Information
In 2017, Russia decriminalized the crime of simple battery (poboi), which was historically a main avenue for prosecuting cases of gender-based violence in the country. This change was made despite the fact that domestic violence crimes have multiplied in Russia over the past 20 years. The decriminalization was met with an outcry from public activists and victim advocates, who argued that such a change would increase gender-based violence. The proponents of reform suggested that criminalization would simplify the process and make justice more accessible to victims. Drawing on two sets of in-depth interviews with Russian criminal justice professionals (police officers, defense lawyers, and justices of the peace), this study suggests that the decriminalization was driven in part by the inability of the Russian criminal justice system to effectively "process" the crime of poboi. The paper argues that the changes of 2017 were implemented to make the crime of domestic violence more controllable and amenable to the needs of the justice system, specifically the police.