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Belarus president rejects law criminalizing domestic violence

Belarus president rejects law criminalizing domestic violence
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks at a polling station after voting during the 2015 presidential election in Minsk. (Sergei Grits / AP)

The authoritarian president of Belarus has rejected a prospective law against domestic violence as Western "nonsense," saying that physical punishment could be "useful" in raising children.

President Alexander Lukashenko said a draft bill criminalizing domestic violence needs more work. He told journalists that he is personally against the physical punishment of children, but added that a "good belting could sometimes be useful for a kid."

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"It's just nonsense taken from the West," he said Friday. "We will proceed exclusively from our own interests, our Belarusian Slavic traditions, and our life experience."

The president cited his own experience, saying he frequently punished his oldest son and that served as a good lesson for his younger son.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron hand for 24 years, maintaining rigid Soviet-style controls over the economy and showing little tolerance for dissent or independent media.

The Belarusian leader has often lashed out against the West, especially for its approval of same-sex marriages. He said that "they will soon have no families left, with men marrying other men."

The current Belarusian law doesn't contain specific regulations against domestic violence. Lukashenko did not mention violence against women in his remarks, but the bill covers all forms of domestic violence.

The prospective bill was drafted by the Interior Ministry and Lukashenko's own administration, but Lukashenko said other organizations should have a say in creating the law.

The Orthodox Church has criticized the domestic violence bill. The Catholic Church in Belarus also has spoken against the document, with Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the archbishop of Minsk, urging Lukashenko in an open letter to "be guided by national interests and spiritual values of the Belarusian people and not to follow disastrous secularist trends and gender ideology leading to the destruction of traditional family."

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