Russia’s Good Housekeeping magazine has launched a new campaign for tougher laws on domestic violence.
The magazine’s June edition features an interview with Margarita Gracheva, who became a symbol of the country’s domestic abuse crisis after her husband cut off both her hands. The headline simply reads: “We need a law on domestic violence.”
Editor-in-chief Natalya Rodikova shared the photoshoot on Instagram. “I want to say that Margarita Gracheva is a terribly brave girl, but even the very bravest among us, even the real warriors, can’t be left alone [to face this problem],” she wrote.
In February 2017, Russia’s parliament downgraded domestic violence from a criminal offence to a misdemeanour for first-time offenders, as long as their victim did not need hospital treatment.
Months later, Gracheva’s husband Dmitri Grachev kidnapped his wife and drove her to a nearby forest, where he severed both her hands with an axe. The case captured Russian and international media furore, particularly after it emerged that Gracheva had tried to report her husband’s abuse to police just days earlier. Officers told her “it would take 20 days to process her request” and the case was eventually dropped for “lack of evidence”. Five days later, Dmitri cut off Margarita’s hands. He is now serving a 14-year prison sentence.
Since the accident, Gracheva has become an active advocate against domestic violence in Russia. She has published a book about her recovery, Happy Without Hands, and recently became the co-host of Intimate People, a TV programme on Russia’s Channel One where women who have suffered abuse from their partners share their stories.
However, other attempts by activist groups to improve the situation legally have been shut down by parliament and conservative groups linked to the Russian Orthodox Church, which opposed the adoption of a draft law in 2019 as “anti-family”.