From an AP roundup of worldwide activities on International Women’s Day:
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (dih-MEE’-tree med-VYEH’-dyev) has approved a five-year national action plan supporting women’s interests.
The signing came on International Women’s Day on Wednesday.
Valentina Matvienko, who as speaker of the upper house of parliament is one of Russia’s most prominent female politicians, calls the strategy a “gift to all the women of Russia.”
The plan sets out broad terms for improving women’s health, their economic opportunities and their involvement in the country’s politics.
Meanwhile, Russian news reports say seven women have been arrested after a demonstration on Moscow’s Red Square marking International Women’s Day.
The independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta said those arrested included four activists, two of the newspaper’s reporters and a photographer.
It was only last month that President Vladimir Putin signed a law that was not exactly a gift to all the women of Russia. It decriminalizes some forms of domestic violence.
Dubbed the “slapping law,” it decriminalizes a first offense of domestic violence that does not seriously injure the person, making it a less serious administrative offense.
The punishment carries a fine of up to 30,000 rubles ($507), an arrest up to 15 days, or compulsory community service up to 120 hours.
In cases of repeated assaults, a defendant faces a fine of up to 40,000 rubles ($676), compulsory community service for up to six months, or being held under arrest for up to three months.
More than 85% of legislators in Russia’s Duma approved the bill last month — seen as part of Putin’s drive to appease conservative pushing “traditional family values.”
Official data on domestic violence in Russia is not centrally collected so it’s difficult to verify. But state-run news agency RIA Novosti has reported that 40% of serious crimes in Russia are committed in the family, 36,000 women are beaten by their husbands daily, and 12,000 women die yearly as a result of domestic violence — one woman every 44 minutes.
The previous penalty for domestic violence was a maximum of two years imprisonment. Some reduction in maximum penalties might be justified if the Russian government was fully committed to combating domestic violence. But that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Alena Popova, an activist who has campaigned against the law, said it would be fine to pass the amendments if a draft law specifically aimed at tackling domestic violence was passed at the same time. But that law, which provides for restraining orders and other safeguards in domestic abuse cases, is stalled in parliament and is not expected to be passed.