Statement of Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” on the implementation by the Russian Federation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
75th UN CRC pre-session, October 5, 2016
The Russian Federation has restrictive laws aimed at the protection of children from so-called harmful information. The restrictions concern information about sexuality, suicide, drugs and violence. However, both the wording of the law on the protection of children from harmful information and the implementation of this law restrict important children rights rather than promote them. The most known example of such restriction is the ban on giving children any information about LGBTI rights, rendering LGBTI teenagers isolated, oppressed and alienated. As Russian government admits in the report to CRC UN, the law on protection of children from harmful information was introduced by Russia as a model law to the CIS countries and obviously Russia is very much imposing such anti-children rights laws on other states.
Officials responsible for the protection of the rights of the child in Russia are sometimes openly advocating for violation of Children Rights too. Senator Elena Mizulina, rose her voice for decriminalization of domestic violence, explaining that this “would legalize Juvenile Justice … and will allow to criminal cases against parents … the change of law discriminates the family as a social group and opposes our main purpose of state family politics that aims at support for and strengthening of family.”
In the criminal code of the Russian Federation there is no specific article prohibiting sexual exploitation, but only a general prohibition of exploitation of children, that mentions sexual exploitation as one of itas possible forms, among begging, child labour etc. The number of cases against sexual exploitation of minors brought to court is quite low, however social workers engaged in rehabilitation of victims of sexual exploitation know that there are thousands of sexually exploited children in every big city: “We cannot manage to reach out to all children in big brothels. They all exist with the support of police or Federal Security Service. Even if I could convince some policeman to go there and convince them that we should save the children, kept in such place, they would immediately get a call from their bosses and be ordered not to meddle.”
There are many testimonies that life in colonies for young prisoners is even worse than life in prisons and camps for adults. The colony authorities use so-called “Aktiv” of collaborating persons among the prisoners against all the others. The worst punishment for the boys in colonies is sexual abuse and rape, commonly practiced in all Russian prisons as a way to oppress and segregate people. Sexual abuse and rape in the male communities of prisoners have a special meaning. Those, who were even once abused, are forever cast out. They have to use special dishes, sit at special tables and stand constant abuse and disgrace. The administration de-facto supports this segregation.
Problems exist in closed institutions for children, such as orphanages for disabled children, mental hospitals for children: there are clear signals indicating different forms of exploitation including sexual exploitation. Some cases are known about children from orphanages used for sexual services.
Children in migration can be in different life situations: some of them come to Russia, because of the working migration of their parents, but others can be trafficked. Those from the first group are safe when their parents are legally employed in Russia, children go to school and live in a family, however if sometimes parents get deported or expelled from Russia and children remain in the country alone, they are at high risk of falling victim to forced prostitution. There are hundreds of cheap brothels in big cities that exploit mostly girls from Central Asia and whose clients are also often working migrants from the same countries. Undercover investigations were carried out by journalists who understood that some girls from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in such places were not yet 18.
Children from faraway regions, such as Africa or South-Asia are trafficked to Russia with the specific purpose of sexual exploitation. Sometimes, groups of trafficked children are intercepted at the border, but somehow adults accompanying such groups are almost never found and arrested. The shelters for children accept children victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation; among them are commonly children from Cameroon, Nigeria and Vietnam. As an expert on trafficking explained:”It is more profitable to bring children from far away, as they are more expensive than the adults. Most expensive are virgins and little boys. Sexual exploitation can start virtually from any age even 3 year olds are sometimes used. Most of foreign children in sexual exploitation are 13, 14 and 15 year olds.”
ADC Memorial believes that laws restricting freedom of speech and information (such as : protecting children from harmful information, protecting religious feelings, forbidding religious missionary activities of not state approved groups in not approved places) should be revised and all unreasonable restrictions should be cancelled, while all forms of violence and abuse of children have to be criminalized and punished, including domestic violence and battering of children.
The sexual exploitation should be seen as a separate crime and problem. All the brothels and places of sexual exploitation of children should be closed and the prostitution organizers as well as their protectors in law enforcement agencies should be punished. Children-victims of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking should get psychological rehabilitation and social care free of charge regardless their citizenship and origin, they must be protected from those who might harm them or exploit them again, meanwhile migrant children in vulnerable situation must be supported by the state social care and their use in prostitution should be prevented, children in migration should be guaranteed equal rights with other children; they should get education, medical aid and social care without discrimination.
The fight against children pornography should focus on the problem of production and distribution of the forbidden issues rather than on closing the web-site and social-media pages.
It is important to protect the integrity of children in institutions: orphanages, hospitals, special schools and prisons, army and military schools; civil society activists and parents should get engaged in public control of children rights implementation in closed institutions and should have effective means to react on all violations.
Special attention should be given to the problem of sexual abuse in penal colonies for underage prisoners: administration of such colonies should face independent monitors investigating every case of sexual abuse of young prisoners and if facts are proven, severe measures should be taken against responsible officials. The regional ombudspersons should be involved in controlling the situation in children prisons, colonies and other institutions and monitor it on a regular basis.