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No new law in Russia allowing women to kill rapists in self-defence

Is there a new law in Russia that allows women to kill their rapist in self-defence?

That’s the claim made in a graphic posted on Facebook in South Africa on 3 September 2019, and shared 149,000 times.

The graphic shows a woman grabbing a man’s face in what appears to be an attempt to twist his neck. “The new law in Russia allows women to kill their rapist in Self defense,” the text reads. “Do you think our country needs the same law?”.

Is this claim true? 

No credible sources for claim

There appear to be only two sources online that repeat the claim. The first is in a “men’s rights” group on the discussion website Reddit that links to an old article on the site Natural Healing Magazine. But the original article is no longer available. 

The second source is an article on the Ugandan website Cyclone Times, published on 27 January 2018. It claims that Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law that allowed women to kill their rapists. 

This article provides no dates, sources, or specific locations in Russia. It quotes Putin calling the law a “measure to curb down on Russian injustice against Human life”, but gives no source for the quote. We could find no evidence that Putin ever said this. 

The rest of the article discusses Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni’s alleged efforts to reintroduce the death penalty in Uganda.

The Russian criminal code

Article 37 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code does allow for killing as a “justifiable defence against an attacking person”. The last time the Russian criminal code was amended was 1 March 2012.

But Russian lawyers and human rights activists argue that the Russian legal system poorly applies this principle and often criminalises those who attempt to physically defend themselves from sexual assault.

A notable case is that of the Khachaturyan sisters, three Russian women who were charged with murder for allegedly killing their abusive father in July 2018. Their case made international headlines in 2019. Protesters and civil rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have come to the sisters’ defence, with over 370,000 people signing a petition calling for the murder charges to be dropped.

The petition argues that Russian self-defence laws apply to situations where the victim suffers from a crime of a prolonged and continuous nature, such as hostage taking or torture. It says the father’s treatment of his daughters was similar and the sisters’ murder charges should be dropped. 

The Khachaturyan sisters’ lawyers are calling for the murder charges to be dropped because the killing was “necessary self-defence”: kill or be killed

Claim in graphic false

The existing Russian criminal code does technically say that someone who kills their rapist in self-defence shouldn’t be charged with murder. But whether or not this is enforced in the courts is debated by Russian lawyers and civil rights groups.

There is no “new law” in Russia allowing women to kill their rapists in self-defence. – Naledi Mashishi


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