Shortcomings in Russian Law on Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation

The results of a comparative analysis of legislation in the European Union and Russia on protection of children from sexual exploitation were presented at a conference entitled “Combating and Reducing the Risk of the Production and Circulation of Child Pornography on the Internet” held at the Public Chamber. The analysis had been carried out as part of a joint EU-Russian project and showed that although the Russian legislation largely met international standards, it contained no definition of child pornography and there was no description of the Internet as a method for the rapid distribution and sale of this material.  Unlike many countries Russia had not joined the Council of Europe convention on cybercrime, which included an article about child pornography on the Internet.  In countries which had signed this document pornography kept on a home computer or other electronic means was regarded as a crime even if the person did not intend to distribute it.  There were also penalties for the production, offer, distribution and transmission of this material using computer systems.  Russia had also not signed or ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the protection of children from exploitation and abuses of a sexual nature.  Article 20 of this document provides for a criminal prosecution for actions relating to child pornography not only on the Internet but generally including the offer, distribution and possession of child pornography.  According to Vladimir Ovchinsky, adviser to the chairman of the Constitutional Court of Russia, there appeared to be no obstacles to Russia signing and ratifying the latter convention, but this would not occur for at least three years. The Convention was a complex document which dealt not only with child pornography on the Internet but also violence again children in general.  It contained standards on child protection and on the monitoring of people who carried out such crimes.  Furthermore, over the last five years Russia had not signed or ratified the Council of Europe Convention on combating the trafficking of children (child pornography and its distribution were regarded as part of the problem of trafficking), in which detailed measures to be taken by governments and NGOs to combat this problem were given, as well as information about possible psychological help for the victims of trafficking.  The optional protocol of the UN Convention on the rights of a child regarding trafficking, prostitution and pornography was another document which Russia had so far not signed.

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