There is to be a federal agency responsible for implementing policy in regard to children in the Rus
Alex Golovan held a press conference devoted to one hundred days of the work of the new federal ombudsman service.
He summed up what had been done and gave an indication of priorities. He said that the main task of his office was to open up a direct line of communication with children and adult citizens alike. Thus, from 1 September to 11 December his staff had received over 400 applications from nearly all the administrative units in the Russian Federation. 29% of the complaints concerned children’s accommodation rights. One in five of these related to violations affecting orphans. According to the ombudsman’s figures, at the beginning of 2008 there were 124,000 orphans and children lacking parental care needing accommodation.. This year about another 20,000 children joined them. However, only 8,000 orphans succeeded in receiving accommodation in 2008. The administrations of a number of regions are contesting court decisions concerning the provision of accommodation to orphans.
6.7% of the complaints reaching the ombudsman’s office are about violations of children’s rights in relation to medical help, including the right to advanced technological treatment and access to expensive pharmaceutical preparations. 5% of complaints are about inadequate social welfare. Another 4% are in connection with the annulment or making of guardianship or adoption orders as the case may be. Many complaints are concerned with cruelty to children. According to the procurator general’s committee on investigations, during the first nine months of 2009 some 518 children died at the hands of adults; 63 were abducted and 895 raped. With a view to preventing violence against children, the ombudsman’s office together with the Fund for Children in Difficulties is to open twenty-four hour ‘hot lines’ for the use of children in every region free of charge in 2010. A national missing child centre is also planned. The centre will be involved with combating child pornography on the Internet. The financing of the centre and the definition of its functions is under current consideration.
An important aspect of the work of the ombudsman’s office according to Mr Golovan is the development of the institution in the regions. Currently, such a service is functioning in 24 of the federation’s administrative units. In the near future ombudsmen will start work in the Leningrad, Saratov, Kirov and Pskov oblasts and also in the Republic of Bashkortostan. ‘Progress is slow in the extreme and in a number of regions “quasi-ombudsmen” have been created. For instance in the Kursk oblast the director of the guardianship, family and demographic policy department has been appointed. In the Volgograd oblast, the ombudsman is working on his own without staff’, said Mr Golovan.
Another important goal of the national ombudsman’s office was to introduce amendments to the legislation. Thus a Bill had been prepared whose aim was to prohibit persons convicted of a crime of a sexual nature and certain types of serious or very serious crimes from working in a children’s establishment. ‘I know that the president supports this idea. I hope that such a Bill will be introduced in the Duma (Parliament) at the beginning of 2010’, said Mr Golovan. In his opinion, it was essential to make the penalty for crimes against children more severe and to establish a protocol for child/parent relations during the divorce process. He also thought it important for a law to be brought in to provide support for the victims of crime or for the present law to be amended.
Mr Golovan’s staff are working on the federation’s ratification of a number of international documents. ‘I have sent a letter on behalf of the president with regard to the signing and ratification of the Facultative Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the near future, trafficking in children and pornography and also the corresponding European Convention’, commented Mr Golovan. He thinks it essential for Russia to sign up to the Hague Convention on Civil Proceedings, which could prevent violation of children’s rights during the process of marriage break-up between citizens of different countries.
His office is working on a national plan of action on children’s issues. Such a plan is required in the case of all countries that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Mr Golovan said that this plan would be fundamentally different from that of the nineties. The aim was to depart from the procedure whereby government departments did the preparation. NGOs and members of the academic community would participate in the work first. After that the draft would be circulated to the various departments for comment and finalisation. He added that children’s community councils under the aegis of regional ombudsmen in the regions would contribute to the process. Once the national plan had been accepted, it was essential to create a federal agency responsible for implementation of policy in relation to children. ‘This issue will be addressed and I would not rule out such an agency appearing in the near future’, said Mr Golovan.