It wasn’t that long ago, maybe 20 years, what’s usually counted as a generation, that a popular kind of sleeveless mean’s under-shirt was called, at least in the NY Metropolitan area, a “wife-beater.”
You don’t hear that label applied much anymore. Why? Because using it as a common phrase “normalized” wife-beating, made it something that poor, uneducated, unfashionable people just did, and nowadays, the popular consensus in America is, wide-beating isn’t normal, isn’t acceptable.
That is not the consensus today in Russia, where the Duma, the lower, but more powerful house of the national Parliament, is in the process of passing a new law which decriminalizes most wife-beating and other forms of domestic violence. Anything that does not send the victim to the hospital is not a crime, under this proposed legislation, just an administrative offense, punishable by a $500 fine, or at worst 15 days in jail.
Only beatings so severe they cause serious physical harm, the kind that demand time in the hospital, or a repeat offense will be considered a criminal matter. The bill has sailed through 2 readings in the Duma, never getting fewer than 385 votes out of 388. One more vote and it goes to the upper house of Parliament, usually referred to as a rubber stamp, and then, it’s up to President Vladimir Putin.
An earlier version of this legislation stalled out because Parliamentarians thought Putin would veto it. Now this conversation, posed at Putin’s annual news conference, has people, in Parliament and out, thinking, maybe he’s for it, after all.
“If the father spanks his child for a good reason as a means of education, a traditional Russian one,”the journalist proposed, “he will be sentenced to two years in prison — and if a neighbor does this, he will get away with a fine!”
Putin replied that “it’s better not to spank children and reference some traditions,” but then he added, “We should not go overboard with (punishment for battery). It’s not good, it harms families.”
According to Russian Interior Ministry statistics, 40 percent of all violent crimes in Russia are committed in family surroundings, The Ministry also reports that 1 in 4 families in the Russia experience domestic violence. Amnesty International reported in 2003 that each day 36,000 women in the Russia are beaten by their husbands or partners, while more contemporary estimates are that between 9 and 10 thousand Russian women are beaten to death every year.
And just this month, dozens of schoolchildren have accused the top administrators of a prestigious Moscow school of sexual violence and harassment. According to the former students, this has been going on for decades, ever since the school was founded.
Yet a poll taken recently by the state polling agency claimed 59% of Russians were in favor of the bill to decriminalize domestic violence, with just 17% “fully against it”.
I think this is what is meant by the term “normalization.”
Nataliya Vasilyeva is a correspondent in the Moscow Bureau of the Associated Press (AP).