31 January 2014
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
The Moscow Helsinki Group has published a report on the situation of children in the Russian Federation in 2013.
It is essential when speaking about the situation of children in Russia in 2013, and as a whole over recent years, to take into account the context in which state discussion of children and their rights takes place. And this context is first and foremost a preoccupation with the country's demographic situation.
According to specialists, at the root of the current demographic crisis is a crisis of the family institution and its functions - reproductive, social and educational. Data concerning family problems attest to this. These include a substantial rise in divorce rates; a significant proportion of unregistered marriages and of children born out of wedlock; an increase in the number of parents deprived of parental rights and convicted of failure to pay alimony.
In 2013 a Framework for Government Family Policy in the Russian Federation for the Period until 2025 was developed (a public project). This marked a turn towards so-called traditional family values. Technically in recognition of international law (with some reservations), the document in question violates one of the basic concepts of the UN Convention on children’s rights- that of “the child’s best interests,” which ensures that decisions reached within national judicial systems prioritize the
The Framework has not yet been officially adopted. However, it is known that the document has already been offered for commentary to various experts, including academics working on issues related to the protection of children’s rights. Essentially, the document is a logical continuation of the 2012-2017 National Strategy for Action for Children and reflects state practice in relation to children and the protection of their rights.
According to the National Strategy, one of the current fundamental tasks for the government is the reduction of poverty amongst families with children and the safeguarding of a minimum guaranteed income. One of the principle steps to effectively carry out this task is ensuring the provision of regular child support payments, sufficient to bring up a child, including the establishment of a government child support fund. On this subject, the deputy prime minister has openly spoken of his unwillingness to spend government money on children with de-jure parents. At the same time, according to international obligations, it is the government who is responsible for the protection of children’s rights in any case where the parents are not able or refuse to fulfill their parental duty.
The protection of children from Western values marks a key direction in government policy, and can be seen in laws such as “the prohibition of propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” and the so-called “Dima Yakovlev Law.” However, it is precisely the interests of children that are hit by these laws.
Russia is party to many international treaties, including those of primary importance in the protection of children’s rights, such as the UN Convention of Children’s Rights, and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Moreover, the process of accession to international treaties continues. On 1 October 2011 the Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction from 25 October 1980 came into force in Russia. Russia periodically submits reports on its compliance with international regulations to various UN organs and promptly pays compensation in response to rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. However, the Russian emphasis on “sovereignty” is increasingly being felt in both general discussions on human rights and in government documents related to the protection of family and children’s rights. The proposed Framework for Government Family Policy contains direct criticism of international standards of the protection of human rights and a declaration of the necessity to protect children from these standards. In this way, current family policy, and in particular the legislation regulating the situation of children, can be said to be founded on the norms of international law only in cases where these norms do not directly or indirectly contradict the “traditional family values of Russia.”
Translated by Holly Jones