Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial law partially decriminalising domestic violence, in a move hailed by Russian conservatives but deplored by women's rights campaigners.

The law ends criminal liability for battery of family members that does not cause bodily harm and is not a repeat offence.

It instead makes domestic battery equivalent to minor assault, which is an administrative offence punishable by a 30,000 ruble ($700) fine, 15 days in jail, or 120 hours of community service. Repeat offences and attacks that cause injury will still be considered crimes.

Ultra conservative MPs who pushed the legislation through Parliament said it eliminates an anomaly in the law that criminalised parents smacking their children, but allowed strangers to do so with impunity, and that serious offenders will still be held accountable.


Women's groups bitterly opposed the amendment, saying it would lift one of very few legal protections against domestic violence.

Activists picketed the State Duma, Russia's Lower House of Parliament, when it considered the second reading of the bill last month.

An online petition against it attracted more than 200,000 signatures.

Nearly 38,000 people, almost three quarters of them women, suffered assault by a family member in 2013, according to Russia's Interior Ministry.