Domestic abuse in Russia is endemic with hundreds maybe thousands of women dying at the hands of their partners every year. Despite this a controversial law was passed in 2017, which scrapped prison sentences for first-time abusers. Beatings that do not cause broken bones or concussion are now treated as administrative offences rather than crimes. As one activist puts it: “the punishment for beating your wife now feels like paying a parking ticket.”
But Russian society is waking up to the crisis. The case of three girls - the Khachaturyan sisters - who face long prison sentences for murdering their tyrannical father, has sparked mass protests. More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition urging prosecutors to drop the murder charges. The girls’ mother tells reporter Lucy Ash that her daughters were acting in self-defence against a man who had abused them physically, emotionally and sexually for years.
Lucy also meets the mother of a woman stabbed to death by her husband who was discovered in her blood soaked bed by her seven year old son. In both cases, the frightened women had appealed to the police but to no avail. These tragedies might have been averted if only the authorities had taken earlier warnings seriously.
In Moscow, Lucy talks to activists who are fighting back by supporting victims, pushing for legal reforms and drawing attention to the cause through art, video games and social media. And she meets a lone feminist MP in the Russian Duma who is trying to bring in restraining orders for violent husbands, boyfriends and family members. Today Russia has no such laws and domestic violence is not a standalone offence in either the criminal or the civil code.
Producers: Josephine Casserly and Albina Kovalyova
Research: Nina Nazarova
(Image: This woman asks whether silence is really golden – more Russian women are speaking out against domestic violence. Credit: Sergei Konkov\TASS via Getty Images)
The Bitter Song of the Hazelnut
Every August tens of thousands of Kurdish migrant workers, including children, toil long hours for a pittance in the mountains of northern Turkey picking hazelnuts for the spreads and chocolate bars the world adores. Turkey provides 70% of all hazelnut supplies – and the biggest buyer is Ferrero, maker of Nutella and Kinder Bueno. The confectionery giant says it’s committed to ethical sourcing, and aiming for its hazelnuts to be 100% traceable next year. But how is that possible in Turkey, with its half a million tiny family orchards, where child labour is rife? Tim Whewell investigates Ferrero’s complex supply chain and finds that while hazelnuts are celebrated in Turkish culture and song, it’s a sector where workers and farmers feel increasingly unhappy and reform is very hard to achieve.
Colombia’s Kamikaze Cyclists
Precipitous mountain roads, specially modified bikes, and deadly consequences. Simon Maybin spends time with the young men who race down the steep roads of Colombia’s second city Medellin. Marlon is 16 and he’s a gravitoso - a gravity biker. He hooks onto the back of lorries or buses climbing the precipitous roads to reach high points around the city. Then, he lets gravity do its thing and - without any safety gear - hurtles back down the roads, trying to dodge the traffic. This year, two of his friends have died gravity biking and Marlon has had a near-fatal accident. But he’s not quitting. So what drives young men like him to take their lives into their own hands? And what’s being done to stop more deaths? Produced and presented by Simon Maybin.
Marawi: the story of the Philippines’ Lost City
Marawi in the southern Philippines is a ghost town. In 2017, it was taken under siege for five months by supporters of Islamic State who wanted to establish a caliphate in the predominantly Muslim city. After a fierce and prolonged battle, the Philippine army regained control – but Marawi was left in ruins. Two years on, reconstruction has barely begun and over 100,000 people are yet to return home.
Philippines Correspondent Howard Johnson tells the story of Marawi from the siege to the present day, through the eyes of two of its residents: a Muslim who risked his life to save his community and a Catholic priest who was held hostage by extremists.
Produced by Josephine Casserly.
Image: Grand Mosque pockmarked by bullet holes and artillery fire in the Most Affected Area (MAA) or Ground Zero of the siege of Marawi
Credit: Howard Johnson/BBC
Kazakhstan: Port in the Desert
China’s New Silk Road reaches across all parts of the globe; building roads, bridges and towering cities where before there were none. In Kazakhstan, China’s neighbour to the west, this vast project has created a port. But there’s no water there, just desert… and trains running all the way from China through to Europe and the Middle East. Meeting the hundreds of shoppers and traders, it’s astonishing to think that just a few years ago this border was a closed military zone - the frontier between two giant communist states. But turn the clock back further and we discover this part of Central Asia has always been closely tied to China, in languages, culture and contested history. For Crossing Continents, Rose Kudabayeva returns to her home country Kazakhstan, to meet people living along the New Silk Road and record how their world is changing.
Produced by Monica Whitlock
A BlokMedia production