Thus far, I have not named an Idiot of the Week from outside the U.S. (though I have teased Jack Collier that I will find one in the UK). There are two reasons for this: a) we have an abundance of idiots right here in our own backyard and I rarely need to look hard to find one, and b) I hesitate because cultural differences may lead me to think a person’s actions are idiotic based on our standards, when in fact they are perfectly acceptable in another’s culture. That said, I was sorely tempted to present an Idiot of the Week award to Russian MP Yelena Mizulina. I will not, but it is tempting.
Last month, Ms. Mizulina introduced a new bill to the State Duma, one that would, in essence, make it perfectly legal to beat one’s spouse, children, or another family member. The bill would de-criminalize domestic violence of all manners.
“Battery carried out toward family members should be an administrative offence. You don’t want people to be imprisoned for two years and labelled a criminal for the rest of their lives for a slap,” said Mizulina, who is chair of the Duma committee on family, women and children’s affairs.
Apparently Ms. Mizulina is not alone in her beliefs. Alyona Popova, an activist and women’s rights advocate, says, “Society tells women to get married in order to let their husbands decide things for them. If a man beats you, it is because he is stronger and has the right to beat you, and you should consider yourself lucky to be married in the first place.” Excuse me? I guess my ‘western values’ must be showing, but NO … just NO!
A group called All-Russian Parents’ Resistance has warned that criminalization of familial violence will lead to prosecution of parents who were acting in their children’s best interests. “A mother spanked her son for watching porn … but his teachers in school noticed bruises, complained, and the court made the mother pay a 8,000-rouble [$120] fine … Parents no longer have the right to choose methods of up-bringing,”
And even the Russian Orthodox Church got into the act, issuing a statement saying that “if reasonable and carried out with love, corporal punishment is an essential right given to parents by God”. Yes, doctor, I broke my child’s arm out of love. Right.
According to official Russian government statistics, 40% of all violent crimes are committed within the family. This amounts to 36,000 women being assaulted by their partners every day and 26,000 children being beaten by their parents every year. President Putin recently signed into law an amendment to the criminal code that declares family violence to be a criminal offense to be prosecuted by the state, but Ms. Mizulina hopes to reverse that law. The United Nations, on the other hand, feels the law does not go far enough, recommending the adoption of new legislation on domestic violence, the establishment of shelters and other support for women victims of violence.
Not surprisingly, Ms. Mizulina was also largely responsible for successfully introducing a law banning so-called gay propaganda, a law that will make it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships and to distribute gay rights material. That law, passed in June, has already led to a significant increase in violence against gays. Interestingly, the law passed unanimously, 436-0! Not a single deputy voted against it, although one did abstain. On the same day, the Duma also approved a new law allowing jail sentences of up to three years for “offending religious feelings”. Now if that doesn’t open a whole can of worms, I don’t know what does! The penalties for violating the law on ‘gay propaganda’ are harsh, but especially so for foreigners: up to 15 days imprisonment, deportation and a fine of 100,000 rubles, approximately $1,565.
I stop short of naming Ms. Mizulina an Idiot of the Week. I think that if I expand that award to an international one, I will never have time to write anything other than IOTW posts. And, as I mentioned in the beginning, cultural differences make it very touchy and it is never my intent to disrespect another’s culture. However, the legalization of domestic violence should strike a sour note with anybody, regardless of ethnicity or cultural norms. It leads to a very slippery slope … one that I do not wish to start climbing. In reality, I am certain there are some in the U.S. as well as every other nation around the globe that would applaud Ms. Mizulina’s ideas, probably even some of our own idiots, such as Phyllis Schlafly, who won the award a few weeks ago. Progress is made in the area of human rights, but sometimes it takes a step backward. Such, I suppose, is the way of the world. But we do not have to like it and we do not have to sit back and accept it without a fight.