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Judicial CP - September 2012

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Russia Today, Moscow, 28 September 2012

Punishment dispute: to flog or not to flog?

By Igor Siletsky

Photo: RIA Novosti

One third of Russians approve flogging as a form of punishment, according to a poll conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, or VTsIOM.

The poll came after the trial of members of the Russian all-girl punk group Pussy Riot, during which proposals were made to flog defendants rather than put them in prison. Commenting on the results of the poll, experts say that respondents were governed by emotions when answering. At the same time, they stressed the necessity of people being punished for "crimes against morality."

In ancient times, corporal punishment was not uncommon in the armies of Russia, European countries, the US and Asia, where flogging was also used against citizens, peasants and other social strata. In the 20th century, many so-called civilized countries banned corporal punishment which was abolished in Russia in the early 1900s. Even so, Russian Cossacks defied the ban and continued to resort to corporal punishment in subsequent years. The re-introduction of corporal punishment came to the fore during the discussion of a possible punishment for Pussy Riot members who performed a punk prayer at the Moscow Christ the Savior Cathedral. VTsIOM head Valery Fedorov comments on the matter.

Click to enlarge

"The current Criminal Code contains no adequate punishment for such a misdeed, Fedorov says. In this sense, many public figures and politicians called for flogging Pussy Riot members instead of placing them behind bars. As for our poll, it questioned 1,600 people living in 138 populated areas, and 27 percent of the respondents said 'yes' to corporal punishment."

Despite the fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted during the UN General Assembly in 1948, banned corporal punishment, it is still not unusual in Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, 19 US states still see local school teachers use the so-called paddling, a form of corporal punishment of a poor pupil who is spanked with the help of a short oar-shaped wooden paddle. In this regard, many experts wonder how paddling complies with juvenile justice of Europe and the US that, among other things, warns against child abuse.

As for modern-day Russia, the discussion of re-introduction of flogging was especially fueled by the Pussy Riot case. Experts say that the problem is that Russia's Criminal Code contains no punishment for insulting believers and desecrating shrines.

With the discussion unlikely to come to a close in the immediate future, it is necessary to realize the fact that a consensus can only be reached through understanding conventional wisdom about the inevitability of punishment.

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