Russia labels domestic violence NGO ‘foreign agent’

MOSCOW: Russia’s Justice Ministry on Tuesday added a prominent organisation supporting victims of domestic violence to its list of “foreign agents”, prompting outrage among women’s groups and rights activists.

The label, which carries negative Soviet-era connotations, subjects non-governmental organisations, media outlets and individuals to spot checks and increased bureaucratic scrutiny. It also obliges them to attach this label to their publications and report their funding and expenses.

Anna Rivina, head of Nasiliu.net (No To Violence), a group that provides legal and psychological help to victims of domestic violence, said the group had been notified by the ministry of its addition to the “foreign agents” list.

“We are very angry,” Rivina wrote on Facebook. “That’s why we will do more in 2021, do things more loudly, transparently and boldly. They (authorities) should buzz off.”

Russia first adopted legislation in 2012 allowing authorities to label foreign-funded NGOs engaged in political activity “foreign agents.” The law has since been broadened to include individuals and bloggers, something rights groups say threatens to stifle dissent.

“Our government has once again shown that it’s forbidden to fight violence in our country,” Alena Popova, a women’s rights activist, wrote on Facebook in response to the “foreign agent label” imposed on Nasiliu.net.

Russia decriminalized some forms of domestic violence in 2017, a move some rights groups said eroded protections for women against abuse.


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