CRC: children in vulnerable situation should be protected from sexual crimes

Following the consideration of Russia’s official state report on the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has recommended that Russia should adopt a number of general measures in order to raise awareness on matters covered by the Protocol and to conduct trainings for professionals, who work with children. CRC has also proposed to adopt a comprehensive strategy aimed at counteracting the crimes against minors and establishing assistance programs for victims of such crimes.

While pointing out that Russia’s efforts to prevent crimes covered by the Optional Protocol were insufficient, the experts of the UN Committee recommended that more attention was given to identifying potential victims among representatives of vulnerable groups: migrants, refugees, children with disabilities, juveniles in places of detention and closed institutions, including institutions for children with mental disabilities.

Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” has prepared its alternative report to the CRC, in which it has noted the absence in the Russian criminal legislation of a separate crime of “sexual exploitation of minors”, which complicated the situation. Currently the Russian courts consider only a small number of such cases, while social workers report that thousands of children have been affected. Obviously, migrant children face the highest risks of becoming victims of sexual exploitation in the event of deportation of their parents from Russia. Numerous brothels in large Russian cities engage minors in prostitution, while many of these minors come from the Central Asian countries.

It is the opinion of the CRC members, that it is necessary to gather statistics on the number of victims of crimes covered by the Optional Protocol from among the representatives of underage migrants. Among other things, such statistics are also required in order to ensure more effective protection of these minors. Therefore, the Committee has asked the Russian authorities to provide detailed statistics of crimes against minors by their sex, age, ethnic origin, disability status and other categories in the next reporting period.

Drawing attention to the need to protect children from economic exploitation, members of the CRC have urged the authorities of the Russian Federation to reduce the risks of child trafficking and labor exploitation of children by adopting necessary measures to ensure access of minors to education regardless of their citizenship and the immigration status of their parents.

ADC “Memorial” has also pointed out the problem of early marriages in some regions of Russia, particularly Northern Caucasus. This issue was further reflected in the recommendations of the Committee, which called not only for setting the marriageable age at 18, but also insisted on providing protection against the sale of children in the form of forced marriage under the pretext of observing local traditions.

While the Russian authorities consider the country’s laws to be fully in line with the requirements of the Optional Protocol, prostitution and debauchery are not officially recognized as pervasive problems in Russia. It is the hope of CRC that Russia will take measures to protect minors from various forms of exploitation, especially during the FIFA World Cup, which creates additional risks in terms of committing sexual crimes.