The Russian federal government is very close to decriminalizing several kinds of domestic abuse, reclassifying “violence that doesn’t cause significant injury” as a misdemeanor. According to criteria laid down by Russia's Health Ministry, the draft legislation will decriminalize beatings within families that result in “minor harm,” like “small abrasions, bruises, superficial wounds, and soft-tissue damage.”
Last Friday, the State Duma approved the final draft of the legislation. Though the proposal has been controversial in the Russian media, just three deputies voted against it, while 380 legislators supported it. Now, the law needs only the approval of Russia’s always-compliant Federation Assembly, before it lands on the president’s desk for one final signature, and Vladimir Putin has already expressed his support for the bill.
Naturally, the Russian government’s move to decriminalize certain kinds of domestic violence has fueled an intense debate online, where you can also find no shortage of misogynistic jokes mocking the concept of violence against women and children, as well as jokes about the new avenues for expressing “masculinity” opened by a lighter approach to policing abuse in families.
While this kind of sophomoric humor is nearly ubiquitous on the Internet, especially with content related to women’s rights, it’s not limited to Russia’s “alt-right” lunatics sharing tasteless jokes.
On Jan. 27, hours after the Duma passed the final draft of the decriminalization bill, the pro-Kremlin tabloid “Life” shared a bizarre video on social media, titled “He Beats You Because He Loves You,” reviewing the “top five ways to commit domestic violence without leaving any traces on your loved ones.”
In 47 seconds, breezing through a jaunty little guitar song, viewers are treated to a playful montage of dancing clipart, explaining that people can use rolled up bed mattresses, place a book on someone’s head and pound through the book, smack relatives with an open palm, apply chokeholds, or beat the soles of someone’s feet. The final segment seems to show a child dying, as its feet are pummeled and the music becomes somber, before cutting to the Life logo and the hashtag “#wow.”
At the time of this writing, the video has 28,000 views on Facebook and more than 83,000 views on Vkontakte, where Life explained in a comment: “Here’s a video for you about what isn’t criminally punishable anymore. But you still shouldn’t do this.”
The video provoked immediate outrage from many in the Russian media — even from journalists who regularly experiment with edgy humor, like Igor Belkin, the mind behind “Lentach,” one of the RuNet’s most popular satirical projects.
In a note on Facebook, Belkin wrote:
Тут всякие хорошие и разные люди идут работать в “Лайф”, и, сообщив об этом на ФБ, удивляются, почему им в комментах нечужие и опять же неплохие в общем-то люди предлагают помочиться себе на лицо и так далее. Так вот примерно поэтому.
There are all sorts of various good people who go to work at Life, and, having shared this video on Facebook, are suddenly surprised when people they know — again, generally decent folks — comment on these posts, suggesting that they go and piss on their own faces, etc. Well, this is why that happens.
Domestic violence is an enormous problem in Russia today. Statistics released by the Interior Ministry in 2013, as reported by the website Meduza, show that police registered more than 38,235 abuse victims — almost three fourths of whom were women.
According to data collected in 2003 by Amnesty International, roughly 14,000 Russian women die annually from domestic violence — much of which goes unreported. At that time, researchers concluded that 36,000 women in Russia are exposed to domestic violence on any given day.