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Three Young Girls Face Jail for Protecting Themselves in Russia

One Russian man had abused his daughters so badly that they turned on him, eventually killing him. In one instance, the father was outraged that the living room was not clean enough, prompting him to call his three daughters into the room and pepper spray them. This was not the first time the girls had been abused.

One night, after their father fell asleep in his rocking chair, the Khachaturyan sisters attacked him with a kitchen knife and a hammer. It only took a few minutes. The three sisters were charged last month with premeditated murder, showing the rest of the world just how backward the Russian justice system is, in regards to domestic violence and sexual abuse cases.

Yulia Gorbunova, who wrote a report on domestic violence in Russia for Human Rights Watch, says this case is nothing new. “The Khachaturyan case is quite indicative of the general situation with domestic violence and how the Russian state responds to this problem,” she said.

In 2017, President Vladimir Putin was pressured by conservative groups to sign a law that decriminalized some forms of domestic violence, which has no official definition in Russian law. Some even want jail time to be replaced with fines.

More than 200,000 people have now signed a petition in defense of the three girls. If the girls are sentenced, they could land in prison for 20 years. People are protesting outside of Russian embassies, a theater has staged a show in solidarity with the girls, and planned a major rally. The rally was canceled because of a lack of security to cover the protestors, but people are still outraged.

Court documents show that the girls were routinely beaten and sexually abused by their father, who was a war veteran. He was diagnosed with a neurological disorder, yet he had an abundance of knives and guns inside the house. He also repeatedly threatened neighbors and other family members with violence. The sisters have said that saying they are better off living in jail than how they had been living under their father’s command.

The girls had confessed some of the abuse to their friends, yet feared going to the police in case it got worse. The girls had attended school for less than two months in the year before the attack, yet the school didn’t interfere.

The sisters have since been released on bail, yet are separated from each other. Despite this, they are in good spirits, saying it’s better than being beaten.

Based on research from compiled Russian criminal court cases, 2,500 women were convicted of manslaughter or murder from 2016-2018. Of those 2,500, nearly 2,000 killed a family member because of domestic violence. Many times the prosecution doesn’t recognize the murders as self-defense.

Gorbunova is not hopeful for women in Russia who are suffering from domestic violence. “The choice is not whether you go to the police and get help,” she says. “The choice for these women was either to die or they had to protect themselves to the best of their ability.”

Featured Image by Steve Mays on Flickr

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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