Love is a Losing Game

Love is a Losing Game

Imagine being paralysed by fear in your own home. Imagine being hit to the point of breaking but you must continue to live with your abuser. Imagine if you lived in a country where unless you are hospitalised – that is, if you have the guts to take yourself to a hospital – your abuser is forgiven by society. Imagine if your abuser becomes the hero of the narrative, making you the villain by default. Imagine then, being a woman in the Russia of 2018.

More than 10,000 women in Russia are believed to die from injuries inflicted by their husbands yearly, yet despite this, the Russian parliament has passed a legal amendment decriminalising domestic abuse. With 380 to 3 votes in the Duma, and Putin’s easy agreement, the motion passed easily. Why can’t Russia seem to notice the death sentence they have forced upon millions of its women and children? Why hasn’t Russia considered the terror the change of law has inflicted on the women of Yekaterinburg, where the penalty for “minor injuries” such as bruising was reduced from a two year sentence to fifteen days in prison? Why haven’t they considered that since the law was introduced, Yekaterinburg has had police responding to 350 incidents of domestic violence daily?

But consider this: what if you had to pay your husband’s fine after he broke your nose and spirit? What if you not only had to protect yourself, but your child as well? It seems hard to believe that the same country that offered suffrage for its women in 1917 and introduced the modern International Women’s Day could leave its women in such a predicament. One woman dies every 40 minutes in the ‘Motherland’ from domestic abuse. And for what? To protect Russian tradition? To maintain the ‘sacred family’ unit? One woman dead every 40 minutes, each one ignored by Parliament.

And what of the women who actively try to keep their fellow women down? What if the woman who witnessed the abuse praised your abuser for his strength and masculinity, despite almost killing you? Take, for example, Russian MP Yelena Mizulina, who helped to instigate the decriminalisation after arguing that it made no sense to break up a family for the sake of “a slap”. Mizulina has condemned a generation of women to a toxic familial environment because she doesn’t believe they should have the right to escape it. This can only lead to one thing: the woman lying cold on the kitchen floor. Maria Mamikonyan, chair of the Russian Parental, has condoned “ordinary educational slaps, which almost all families use to let children know their limits.” But when does a disciplinary ‘slap’ become abusive? And since when is it acceptable to treat grown women like children?

If you lived in a country where you were, ironically, threatened with rape for attending classes to protect yourself, would you sit idly by and allow it to happen? If you were forced to be on the run like a criminal for a crime of which you were the victim, wouldn’t you ask why? But the women of Russia have been asking why. They’ve been asking why for so long now that their cries are wails and yet their country still refuses to hear them. And we do the same. So what can they do? Stay silent, in order to stay alive. Live in fear of being murdered by the men who are meant to love them.

With up to a third of Russian women believed to suffer from some form of domestic abuse, and 40% of all murders and violent crimes taking place within the home, it’s a wonder how these women carry on. How do they go about their day, trying not to wince at the collage of bruises hidden carefully under their clothes? They have to, when staying with their partner is an easier option than living amongst the shadows.

There is a popular saying in Russia: “if he beats you, it means he loves you”. Passivity is maintained by these women as a form of survival, as though their lives are equal to a game of chess. One wrong move, and the Queen’s life hangs in the balance.

Imagine not being protected by your own nation. Would you honestly be content with that? Why then are we allowing any woman to live in that dystopian present? We cannot call ourselves a country with some of the best equal rights laws and not feel despair for the women of Russia. I urge you to imagine yourself, your grandmother, your mother, sister or daughter in a situation, where no one seems to stop the suffering of the innocent.

Without a voice, there is no change. But we have a voice – I have a voice. And so do you. Together, our voices have the power to be deafening. We cannot allow for the blood of these women to be smeared across the Russian flag in the name of ‘tradition’. By supporting charities such as Refuge and raising awareness of the severity of the problem which occurs by decriminalising domestic abuse, the rest of the world can protect the women who are unable to protect themselves. The women of Russia deserve the opportunity to fight for their lives without the threat of incarceration. We know what is happening, and yet no attempt has been on Britain’s part to protect them.

Time for change has come, and the window of opportunity is slowly closing. I will be doing all that I can to protect the women across the world suffering from sexual violence.

Will you be joining me?

By Tirion Davies