Neglecting the Criminal Law and Procedure
There was less attention focused on reforming the criminal laws regarding domestic violence when the parliament was revising the Soviet-era criminal code in the mid-1990s. Neither the embryonic women’s crisis center movement, the Women of Russia faction, nor international human rights advocates were directing criticism toward the criminal assault articles for including no specific reference to domestic violence. Even more importantly, rule-of-law advocates, such as the Law Enforcement Section of the U. S. Embassy and ABA-CEELI, who were lobbying for changes in the code, did not bring up domestic violence. Gender issues were not their concern. Unsurprisingly then, the 1996 criminal code reform brought no global feminist reform. All of the articles in the Soviet code that applied to domestic violence remained in the post-Soviet code basically unchanged.45
In 2001, when the parliament turned to revising the criminal procedure code, the women’s crisis center movement was at its height and, with the help of Human Rights Watch (1997), had leveled a critique of the code’s relegation of domestic violence to the criminal articles not requiring public prosecution. However, as in the case of the criminal code reform, there was no support from the mainstream international organizations directly involved in the reform of the criminal procedure code and no impact on the final reform. The new criminal procedure code retains this private-prosecution provision and the provision for cases to be dropped if the abuser and abused reconciled6 Much as with sexual assault, the absence of gender violence insight into the process led to unintended negative consequences. In this case, an important part of the procedural reform was the institutionalization of the new justices of the peace, who were assigned the criminal articles most often used for domestic violence. As these courts are only for less serious crimes and are required to attempt reconciliation and mediation (Solomon 2005, 86), domestic violence is likely to be further minimized by the criminal justice system and women are likely to face increasing pressure to reconcile with their abusers.
More recently, the international community has ramped up its critique of domestic violence criminal laws. Amnesty International (2005) issued a strong critique of Russian criminal law’s failure to address the specifics of domestic violence (e. g., the relations between the perpetrator and victim, the cumulative impact of repeated assaults) and the procedural hurdles (such as private prosecution, the allowance of character references for the accused). The Moscow Helsinki Group advocated the elimination of private prosecution (Lukshevskii 2003). While the proposals for domestic violence came too soon, this pressure came too late, after the big reforms of the codes had already taken place.