This article concerns the analysis of court practices for criminal cases relating to female victims of domestic violence who have been charged with murder or intentional infliction of grievous bodily injuries of their partners. The author directly connects the observance of women's rights in domestic violence self-defense cases with the problem of the lack of legal mechanisms of protection against violence in Russia. Russia remains the last country in the Council of Europe which has yet to create legal mechanisms to protect women against domestic violence. The lack of a law against domestic violence, a mechanism for protection orders, standards for investigating domestic violence, and comprehensive social support for victims are recognized as the main barriers in the access of victims of domestic violence to justice.

While today, Russian society and the academic community in particular can talk about victims of domestic violence as victims of delinquency and crime, the discussion of situations where women who are subject to violence are charged with murder or causing grievous bodily injuries has only started recently. Based on the examples of several sentences of women, the author aims to trace how domestic violence is regarded by courts in similar cases.

An analysis of court proceedings on criminal cases where women are charged with the murder of or the infliction of serious harm to the health of their partners in situations of domestic violence self-defense demonstrates that the judges are often guided by gender stereotypes and myths of domestic violence when sentencing. Law enforcement officers (police, investigators, and prosecutors) do not consider domestic violence against charged women as a significant circumstance relevant to the criminal case of the murder or causing bodily injuries to their partners or other male relatives. Non-recognition of domestic violence as a phenomenon in the legal field of Russia, stereotypical attitudes towards cases of domestic violence and survivors, and refusal to investigate domestic violence incidents showcases that women charged with crimes in the situation of domestic violence self-defense have lost their right for access to fair justice.

Author Biography

Davtyan Mari Davitovna, Attorney at law, Head of the Center for Defense of Domestic Violence Survivors under the Consortium of Women’s NGOs, PhD candidate of the Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Russia, Moscow. Email: davtyanmary@mail.ru.