Olga Batalina, one of the bill’s co-authors, rejected suggestions that the bill would grant impunity to abusive partners.
“The Criminal Code still carries criminal responsibility for battery, but now it will be applicable only for repeat offenders,” she told state television. All those “who terrorize their family members, who do it repeatedly … will face criminal responsibility.”
Nearly 38,000 people, almost three quarters of them women, suffered assault by a family member in 2013, according to Russia’s interior ministry.
Women’s rights campaigners say the real number of victims is likely significantly higher, partly because many incidents are never reported. Several rights groups are now pushing for a separate federal law that would specifically address domestic violence.
The amendment will have to pass a third reading in the Duma and be approved by the upper house and president Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.
The second reading was the last chance to amend the bill before it lands on Mr Putin’s desk.
A survey by VTsIOM, a state-run pollster, earlier this month found that 19 percent of Russians said “it can be acceptable” to hit one’s wife, husband or child “in certain circumstances.”