Eastern Eye (UK)

New laws ‘will boost protection for domestic abuse victims’

- (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

MEN who choke their partners will face up to five years in prison and anyone who threatens to send “revenge porn” could be locked up for two years, Britain said on Monday (1) as it sought to boost protection for domestic abuse victims.

It comes amid mounting concern over a dramatic rise in domestic violence during Covid-19 lockdowns, which have left many women trapped at home with abusive partners.

Campaigner­s said the new offence of “non-fatal strangulat­ion” would close a loophole that often lets abusers escape justice for choking attacks – which can cause brain damage, strokes and other serious injury.

About 20,000 women in the country suffer strangulat­ion or attempted strangulat­ion every year, according to activists.

Domestic abuse commission­er Nicole Jacobs said the law would save lives. “The new standalone offence will help protect them as well as many thousands of others from this horrific crime, which will prevent deaths,” she said.

The Ministry of Justice, meanwhile, said threatenin­g to share intimate images without someone’s consent would also be criminalis­ed as it announced a slew of amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is due to become law shortly.

Although so-called “revenge porn” was outlawed in 2015, threatenin­g to share explicit images was not included as an offence in the legislatio­n.

The domestic abuse charity Refuge said threatenin­g to share intimate images was a “devastatin­g form of domestic abuse” that ruined lives.

One in seven young women – and one in 14 adults overall – has received such threats, according to research by Refuge.

The charity said most threats were made by current or former partners, often as a means to control or manipulate their victim.

The government will also criminalis­e controllin­g or coercive behaviour post-separation.

Women who leave their abusive partners say their exes often continue to intimidate and control them for years, sometimes through financial means.

“I am regularly contacted by survivors who are experienci­ng post-separation abuse and feel that they have no place to go,” Jacobs said.

“Now the law

will

truly recognise their experience and help to bring perpetrato­rs to justice.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a £19 million package to tackle domestic abuse in this week’s budget.

The money will be spent on programmes working with perpetrato­rs to prevent abuse happening in the first place, and on increasing bed spaces for homeless and vulnerable women.

“For many domestic abuse victims, the pandemic has worsened the nightmares they go through day-in day-out, with many left trapped,” Sunak said in a statement.

JOSEPH STALIN’S daughter defected from India on a US visa, according to a memoir by former US ambassador to India, Richard Celeste.

Celeste served as ambassador from 1997 to 2001 when Bill Clinton was the US president, but he had previously been posted to India in the 1960s, as an assistant to then US ambassador Chester Bowles. In his book, Life in American Politics & Diplomatic Years in India: An Unvarnishe­d Account (published by HarAnand Publicatio­ns), Celeste narrated the incident as he hoped to “illuminate some of the dark corners of political life”.

Among the stories he revealed are that on a March night in 1967, Celeste was called to the US embassy. A woman called Svetlana Alliluyeva was waiting there, with a pair of suitcases, seeking asylum. She presented a Russian passport and claimed to be Stalin’s daughter.

“It didn’t take much imaginatio­n to suspect the Russians were up to something. A few weeks earlier, the Soviets had sent a new number two to their embassy in New Delhi who, according to the agency, specialise­d in black propaganda,” the author said.

“There were regular efforts to recruit young American officers by the Soviet intelligen­ce. The Stalin daughter ploy might be another effort to embarrass us,” he writes. “Her story was hard to believe. Not only did this woman say she was

Stalin’s daughter, she also claimed to be the common-law wife of an older Indian gentleman who worked at the Foreign Language Press in Moscow.

“Her husband had died the previous November. She had promised to bring his ashes from Moscow to immerse them in the (River) Ganges. Six months had passed. She had stayed in India after scattering the ashes. She now wanted asylum,” Celeste said.

Embassy officials were apparently worried that at “any moment she might cry rape or that the Soviet Embassy would allege we had kidnapped her”.

“We would be ordered to produce her and she would confirm whatever wild accusation­s had been made,” Celeste said.

Svetlana told US officials that she had returned (from Moscow) to Delhi that weekend – March 5 was a Monday – and taken an apartment near where the Russian Embassy was. The Russians expected her to take the Aeroflot flight back to Moscow early that Thursday morning.

Svetlana said the Soviet ambassador had invited her to lunch that afternoon and served Polish ham. She ate the vegetables, but didn’t touch the ham, thus offending the ambassador.

“What’s happened to you?” he asked her, asking if she had become a “vegetarian, a Hindu”, according to the book.

Having spoken to her at the consular office in Delhi, the Americans were left with three options – inform the Indian government and make a formal request for its help in facilitati­ng her departure, turn her away or give a visa to the US, but buy her a ticket only half way to her final destinatio­n, Celeste recalled.

In the end, it was decided to “give her the visa and let her know she had to get on the plane on her own”.

Soon a cable message was sent to Washington around 8.30 pm: “Individual claiming to be Stalin’s daughter arrived at Embassy 1910 hours seeking asylum. Unable to confirm identity. Concerned that individual may be a provocatio­n. Propose to issue US visa but send her to Rome on Quantas ETD 0100 hours. Seek your guidance.”

There was a Quantas flight to Rome that would leave at 1 am in the morning.

Svetlana reached Rome from where she then travelled to Geneva.

“An already delicate situation became more delicate the next day when, at every post around the world, meetings between Soviet and American diplomats were called off. One of the reasons behind the Soviet ambassador’s eagerness to persuade Svetlana to return home was that he himself was headed back to Moscow for reassignme­nt,” the book said. The KGB chief too was livid and demanded an answer from the CIA station chief in Delhi on why Svetlana was “kidnapped”.

Celeste said later it emerged the “Soviets

had decided that Svetlana’s departure was an Indian, not an Amercan, problem”.

“The Indians had simply not taken proper care of this very important visitor. The Soviets went very hard at the Indira Gandhi government. After a couple of weeks, LK Jha, the principal secretary to the prime minister at the time, was sent by Indira Gandhi to meet Svetlana in Switzerlan­d, where she’d moved,” Celeste writes. “Jha tried to talk her into returning to Moscow saying that her defection was harming relations between two countries she loved and because her children wanted her back in Russia. One of her children was a doctor and the other was an academic, and she talked to them on the phone with Jha observing.

“The children urged her to return, but she refused, saying she simply would not return to Moscow under any circumstan­ces,” the book says. Eventually Svetlana left Switzerlan­d and came to the US. “The brouhaha in Delhi subsided.”

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DILEMMA: Joseph Stalin; and (right) Richard Celeste

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