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

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Moscow (AFP)

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

The petition was created some time ago but only gathered steam this week after Russian female bloggers and women's rights campaigners threw their weight behind it with a hard-hitting online campaign.

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

The aim was 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 for abuse in the 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 press conference 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 decree watering down the punishment of abuse in families in 2017, making a first offence punishable by only a fine instead of a jail sentence.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Russian authorities were "reluctant to recognise the seriousness of the problem."

It said authorities failed to put in place measures that would protect victims from abuse in the home.

"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 shook by the fate of Margarita Gracheva whose husband took her to a forest where he tortured her and chopped off her hands. The incident took place after police had ignored her complaints.

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