(CSM) Less than a year after a baby step forward to protect women from domestic violence, Russia is taking a bigger step backward.
That's the view of women's rights advocates after the conservative-dominated State Duma, the lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly approved legislation that effectively decriminalizes "first offense" domestic violence, which is virtually certain to be adopted in its final reading Friday.
The legal changes have been accompanied by ferocious public debate and street protests – which itself reflects a shift in Russian social awareness of an issue that's long been in the shadows. But the outcome does appear to confirm the political ascendancy of social conservatives since the pro-Kremlin United Russia party won a crushing victory in last September's State Duma elections.
On display is the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is pushing a strong traditionalist agenda. The church was actively behind a recent law banning the "propaganda of sexual minorities," aimed at Russia's beleaguered LGBT community. The Kremlin, while perhaps not the main driving force of the conservative wave, has clearly acquiesced to it and President Vladimir Putin is expected to sign the new law.
"Although priests do not play a politically active role, we see the positions of the Orthodox Church gradually attaining official status" as the church attempts to regain its czarist-era place as ideological bulwark of the state, says Nikolai Petrov, a political scientist with the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. "This suits the Kremlin, which constantly criticizes the West for abandoning its traditional principles while Russia is supposedly a bastion of good old family values. The international dimension isn't the main reason for the upsurge of social conservatism in Russia, but it's definitely there." […]
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