Over 650,000 sign Russia petition to boost domestic violence law

File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

AFP Moscow, Russia Jul 30, 2019, 03.41 PM (IST)

More than 650,000 people have signed a petition calling on Russian authorities to toughen domestic violence legislation thanks to a hard-hitting social media campaign.

The petition was created a few years ago but has only gathered steam over the past week after Russian female bloggers and women's rights activists threw their weight behind it with an online campaign.

The women have posted photos of themselves with make-up suggesting cuts and bruises, along with the slogan, "I did not want to die."

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The aim is to help boost a petition first launched by leading women's rights figure Aliona Popova, urging Russia to adopt a law protecting victims of domestic violence, which mainly affects women.

Russia's legal system effectively leaves women without any state protection against abuse at home.

The issue is rarely discussed publicly and campaigners say police often ignore cases. 

"In Russia, almost 16 million women are victims of domestic violence every year," Popova said at a news conference on Monday, hailing the online campaign for helping to garner more than 650,000 signatures.

There is no separate law covering domestic violence in cases where the victim is living with the attacker, but rather it is included under the offence of battery. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law watering down the punishment of abuse in families in 2017, making a first offence punishable by only a fine instead of a jail sentence. 

Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights issued its first ruling on a domestic violence case in Russia.

The court noted Russian authorities' "reluctance to acknowledge the seriousness and extent of the problem."

"One out of three women in Russia is beaten by their husband or partner. Every 45 minutes, a woman is killed at home -- these numbers are terrifying," Olga Kravtsova, a blogger with a large following on social media, wrote on Instagram earlier this month. 

Last month, a case against three teenage sisters who killed their father after years of alleged beatings and sexual abuse sparked protests and highlighted Russia's dire record on domestic violence. 

In late 2017, the nation was shaken by the fate of Margarita Gracheva whose husband took her to a forest where he tortured her and chopped off her hands. The tragedy took place after the police had ignored her complaints.