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'Be proud of bruises': Women told as Russia decriminalises domestic violence

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 A popular Russian newspaper sparked controversy after it published an article telling women -'to be proud of their bruises-' as President Vladimir...

A popular Russian newspaper sparked controversy after it published an article telling women 'to be proud of their bruises' as President Vladimir Putin signed a new law easing some penalties for domestic violence.

The move has alarmed women's rights campaigners who fear it will encourage abuse.

In the article published by the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, the columnist wrote, "For years, women who have been smacked around by their husbands have found solace in the rather hypocritical proverb, ‘If he beats you, it means he loves you! However, a new scientific study is giving women with irascible husbands new grounds to be proud of their bruises, insofar as women who are beaten, biologists confirm, have a valuable advantage: they’re more likely to give birth to boys!"

The law reduces battery of a relative to a civil offence instead of a criminal one in first instances, when the victim suffered no serious harm.

Those who support new legislation, including members of Putin's United Russia party, say they want to protect parents' right to discipline their children and to reduce the state's ability to meddle in family life. They say anyone who inflicts serious physical harm will still be criminally liable.

But critics say the move is a step backwards which will exonerate "tyrants in the home" and discourage victims from reporting abuse.

Each year, about 14,000 women die in Russia at the hands of husbands or other relatives, according to a 2010 United Nations report.

In a statement on its website, the Kremlin said Putin had signed the law after it was approved by both chambers in Russia's parliament. The State Duma, or lower house of parliament, passed the bill in January in its second of three readings by 385 votes to two.

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