Russian society needs to help end violence towards children
A round table entitled ‘Current questions connected with the prevention of violence and cruelty towards children. Innovative approaches to the rehabilitation of children who have suffered from neglect and violence’ took place in Moscow, organised by the Association of Commissioners for Children's Rights in the Russian Federation, charitable organisation ‘Women and Children First’ and charitable centre ‘Destiny Complicity’.
In the opinion of the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Alexei Golovan, there needs to be a Russia-wide information campaign for citizens on the issue of physical child abuse. Citizens need to understand what violence is, what forms it takes, what to do with victims and where to find help. He also suggested setting up a 3-digit violence help line, with the aim of raising the effectiveness of help to victims. Golovan suggests organising re-education of specialists working in the social spheres. Moreover, he sees it necessary to prohibit at the legislative level all forms of physical punishment both in the family and in educational and health establishments. Olga Pristanskaya of the General Prosecutor’s Research Institute touched on the legislative aspect of the protection of children from abuse. In her opinion, the country needs a government strategy for the protection of children’s rights and their protection from violence. Such a document exists in the form of a concept for the spiritual-moral development of Russia’s youth, which includes 14 bills, a few of which have already been signed by the President. However, even with these small normative acts, which have been accepted by the Duma, there are questions, noted O. Pristanskaya. Not all regions have taken up the law on curfews. The law concerns the toughening up of criminal charges for sexual abuse of minors and has serious inadequacies. According to Pristanskaya it presumes punishment for the commitment of a crime and does not deal with measures of crime prevention. Rehabilitation for those who have suffered is also necessary. Moreover, in article 134 and 135 the minimum age for consent to sexual relations with an adult is not stated, and the term of imprisonment for the stated crime has remained unacceptably low (from 4 to 12 years). In her opinion, bringing in modifications may lead to catastrophic consequences, especially as during the last six years the number convicted under act 134 has risen by 30%. Pristanskaya thinks that the legislators have allowed mistakes to be made, having not, as part of the bills, consulted psychologists, sexologists, psychiatrists or criminologists.
The lawyer also noted the need to bring in legislation defining pornography and the penalty for keeping child pornography. Legislation should be strengthened with preventative measures on violent crime against children. Pristanskaya especially noted the need for a law on the protection of children from harmful information.
Representative of the executive committee for The Foundation to Support Children in a Difficult Life Situation, Marina Gordeeva, suspects that legislative measures aren’t enough – cruelty should be resisted by society. “Today, what’s made public is only the most scandalous examples of cruelty. But many children suffer violence daily. It’s becoming the norm,” she asserted. Gordeeva also pointed out that the foundation is to coordinate a national information campaign against cruelty to children. It will differentiate “a slap from a beating and a scream from a moral lesson. The public needs to be included in this discussion as part of the campaign.”
The foundation has also developed a programme called ‘We will Protect Children from Violence’ also as part of their fight against child abuse.
The charitable organisation ‘Women and Children First’ has directed its programme ‘Rehabilitation’ to helping children who have suffered abuse. The tasks of the programme: familiarise specialists with technology in rehabilitation rooms in institutions and teaching new technologists about the work of specialists who work with affected children. ‘Rehabilitation anticipates the rehabilitation of the psychological health of a child and the harmonisation of their psychological development,’ explained the director of the programme ‘Women and Children First’, Natalia Vladimirova.