Children’s Rights Ombudsmen

There are more children’s
rights ombudsmen in Russia than in the whole of Europe


…said the Presidential Ombudsman for the Russian Federation (RF),
Pavel Astakhov, when opening the Fourth Convention of Ombudsmen for Children’s
Rights in the RF on 10 October.


Taking part were children’s ombudsmen from 76 regions. Mr Astakhov
said that laws relating to children’s ombudsmen had been passed in a further
six administrative areas of the federation and that the process of seeking
candidates for the resultant posts was underway. Mr Astakhov suggested that the
fact that the service was being introduced so rapidly all over Russia bore
witness to the increasing attention being paid by the government to children’s
welfare issues. He observed that the convention ought to play an important part
in the development by ombudsmen of a unified governmental strategy serving
children’s interests, in strengthening children’s legal status in Russia and so
forth. The government’s policy priorities relating to children should be to
arrange family placements for parentless children including reuniting them with
their family of origin.


The ombudsman stated that over 100,000 parentless children were
identified in 2010 (in 2007 there were over 136,000). Of these around 14,000
were placed in institutions and the rest with families. In 2010 the number of
children whose parents were deprived of parental rights decreased by 11.1% in
comparison with 2008. At the same time, the number of children whose parents’
parental rights are being limited was increasing.


Another theme discussed at the convention was violence against
children. The ombudsman said that in 2011 alone 48,100 minors had been the
victims of criminal attacks. 4,900 crimes involving sexual abuse had been committed
against children, 731 infants had died and over 1,000 had received serious
injuries, and 44% of minors had been subjected to sexual harassment via the
Internet. Today groups of bloggers are included amongst those waging war on
paedophiles on the worldwide web. One of these is headed by Anna Levchenko
under the pseudonym, Agatha Christie. She is helping the ombudsman as a member
of the public. However, it is essential to make the current legislation more
severe if the situation is to be improved. As Mr Astakhov mentioned, Russia’s State
Duma has given a first reading to a bill introduced by the president  designed to make paedophiles liable to
severer criminal sanctions. However, the ombudsman was convinced that the
legislation needed to be wider in scope and impose criminal liability for
spreading information aimed at making paedophilia look attractive. Along with
legislative measures, it was necessary to create an atmosphere of intolerance
on the part of the public towards child abuse.


Ms Levchenko said that the bloggers had worked up a method of
identifying paedophiles who seek their victims over the Internet and having
them brought to account in the criminal courts. There are reckoned to be over
2,000 volunteers in the ‘Agatha Christie’ team. Nevertheless, she acknowledged
that the representatives of law and order do not always want to bring criminal
proceedings against paedophiles. She said that that was frequently because the
police lacked experience of working on these cases.


Ms Levchenko observed that the activists had managed to make contact
with many social networks and carry out preventive operations with the aim of
removing content of a pornographic character. They had succeeded in having
about 30 paedophile sites closed. The servers in respect of which their domain
names had been acquired were owned by American firms.




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