Ignored at Home, Battered Russian Women Take Cases to Europe – News


MOSCOW — He beat her. He kidnapped her. He threatened to kill her.

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However this was Russia, the place home violence is each endemic and extensively ignored. Each time Valeriya Volodina went to the police for defense from her ex-boyfriend, she acquired nowhere. “Not as soon as did they open a prison case in opposition to him — they might not even acknowledge there was a case,” she says.

So Ms. Volodina turned her sights in a foreign country, and this week, the European Court docket of Human Rights in Strasbourg dominated emphatically in her favor. Rejecting arguments from Russia that she had suffered no actual hurt, and that she had didn’t file her complaints correctly, the courtroom awarded her 20,000 euros, about $22,500.

The ruling was the European courtroom’s first on a home violence case from Russia — however it could be removed from its final. Ten extra Russian girls have comparable instances pending earlier than the courtroom.

Ms. Volodina’s lawyer, Vanessa Kogan, the director of Astreya, a Russian human rights group, hailed the ruling in Strasbourg “as a vital step towards tackling the scourge of home violence in Russia.”

Notably vital, she mentioned, is that the European courtroom acknowledged that “Russia’s failure to take care of this query is systemic and that Russia authorities, by remaining passive, by not offering safety and by not having vital laws, are violating victims’ equal rights earlier than the regulation.”

Credit scoreValeriya Volodina

The ruling Tuesday solid a harsh gentle on the Russian judicial and regulation enforcement programs, and their longstanding blind spot on the subject of home violence. A report final yr by Human Rights Watch described the issue as “pervasive” in Russia however hardly ever addressed due to authorized hurdles, social stigma and a basic unwillingness by regulation enforcement officers to take it significantly.

It got here amid rising protests in Moscow in latest weeks over the difficulty, following a call final month by Russian prosecutors to convey fees of premeditated homicide in opposition to three sisters who killed their father after what they mentioned had been years of beatings and sexual abuse.

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The sisters, now ages 18, 19 and 20, attacked their father, Mikhail Khachaturyan, with a knife and hammer final yr as he dozed in his rocking chair after dousing them with pepper spray as punishment for his or her not being tidy sufficient. Supporters of the sisters — Maria, Angelina and Krestina Khachaturyan — say they had been pushed to violence by years of abuse and shouldn’t be prosecuted for homicide.

In Ms. Volodina’s case, it was her boyfriend who lastly make clear why her complaints had been being ignored by the police. “With all the cash I’ve spent on the cops, I might have purchased a brand new automobile,” she remembers him complaining.

In her case, the European courtroom did act, figuring out that the Russian authorities had violated her rights beneath the European Conference of Human Rights, which Russia has signed. It mentioned that they had failed to research her studies of violence or to offer any safety from her former accomplice, Rashad Salayev, 31.

“Justice has been achieved,” mentioned Ms. Volodina, 34, “however it’s unhappy that this was accomplished in another country, not in Russia.”

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On one facet of a gulf of opinion are Russians, lots of them younger, who share a view that the state should take motion in opposition to home abuse, sexual violence, and harassment and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. On the opposite facet, most likely a big majority, are extra conservative Russians who bridle at what they see as concepts imported from the West and the erosion of conventional norms.

Unable to safe satisfaction from their very own justice system, an growing variety of Russian girls have sought redress from the European courtroom.

In a single case filed there in Might, one girl, Margarita Gracheva, accused a Moscow area police officer of misconduct for failing to behave after her estranged husband put a knife to her throat and threatened to dissolve her physique in acid. “A manifestation of affection,” the officer declared.

Just a few days later, in December 2017, Ms. Gracheva’s husband chopped off her fingers with an ax. He was sentenced to 14 years — however she was rebuffed in her efforts to get cops punished in her personal nation for negligence.

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Ms. Volodina, the plaintiff within the case that was determined this week, mentioned her studies of violence and threats had been dismissed at any time when she went to the police as “home troubles” or a lovers’ tiff.

The officers, she mentioned, additionally sneered at her alternative of accomplice — Mr. Salayev is from Azerbaijan — and advised she ought to have identified what to anticipate. (Males from Azerbaijan and different former Soviet lands within the Caucasus area are sometimes stereotyped in Russia as being overly emotional and liable to violence.)

“They informed me it was my fault for ever getting concerned with this man and mentioned, ‘When he kills you, come and see us,’” Ms. Volodina recalled.

She mentioned that she had been compelled to “dwell like a undercover agent” for 3 years, afraid he would possibly discover her and kill her. She modified her title, left her dwelling metropolis for Moscow, often modified her cell phone SIM card and fled for a time to France.

Based on the ruling, from January 2016 to September 2016, Ms. Volodina filed at the very least seven totally different complaints to the police. All had been dismissed. She made additional complaints in 2018 after he posted “intimate images” of her on social media, began stalking her and making dying threats.

In 2016, in keeping with the European courtroom’s account of occasions, he discovered her and punched her within the face and abdomen. After being taken to hospital and informed that she was 9 weeks pregnant and prone to a miscarriage, she agreed to a medically induced abortion.

Ms. Volodina’s lawyer, Ms. Kogan, mentioned that corruption definitely sophisticated efforts to get authorized redress, however that greater obstacles had been attitudes towards home violence and the absence of a regulation particularly aimed toward tackling the issue.

Prosecuting a violent partner turned much more troublesome in February 2017, when the Russian Parliament, after lobbying from the Orthodox Church, decriminalized first battery offenses amongst members of the family.

“In Russia, you get one free beating a yr,” Ms. Kogan mentioned.


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