UN Committee on the Rights of the Child denounces discrimination of minorities, says children in vulnerable situation should get protection and assistance

ADC “Memorial” welcomes Concluding observations and recommendations on the fourth and fifth reports of the Russian Federation to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (published on February 5, 2014).

Besides taking into account the official state reports, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also considered alternative reports by organizations dealing with defense of the rights of children. ADC “Memorial” together with the Russian LGBT Network and “Coming Out” NGO prepared special report on “Situation of the children from vulnerable groups”, which was also supported by Civil Partnership Platform “Central Asia on the Move”.

Not enough attention was paid in the past to the problems of children from minority groups and official state reports presented by the Russian Federation to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child didn’t mention these children. It is because of this that ADC “Memorial” was especially satisfied to see that the Committee’s Concluding observations and recommendations paid special attention to the problems of these children, who are so often overlooked.

The Committee called on the Russian state authorities to abolish all the regulations discriminating children coming from minority groups, such as:

– laws prohibiting “propaganda of homosexuality”, which stigmatize LGBTI children and children from LGBTI families;

– 90 day period of stay in Russia for children of labor migrants, which violates their right to stay with their families as well as their right to education in Russian schools;

– regulations preventing access of children to education and medical assistance in case they lack Russian citizenship or proper registration documents;

– segregation of Roma children in schools and low level of education provided in specialized “Roma classes”;

– police raids in order to “check” Roma compact settlements in the course of which children suffer by way of being forcibly photographed, checked for documents and often taken from their homes;

 – denial of birth registration of children in case their parents lack proper documents;

– discriminatory practices against girls and women in traditional communities of the Northern Caucasus;

 – the practice of violating the right of indigenous people in the Far North and Far East for education in native languages, as well as preventing them from getting “Northern diet” foods, which are both habitual and nutritious for children living in these communities.

The Committee paid special attention to the problem of growing participation of children in hate crimes and called on the government of the Russian Federation to take the necessary steps to educate children about the principles of tolerance and prevent minors from taking part in hate crimes.

All of these recommendations are highly topical and deal explicitly with the issues raised in the alternative Russian report about the situation of children from vulnerable groups.

While welcoming Russian Federation’s efforts in the field of defense of the rights of children, the Committee noted that some of the previous recommendations had not been sufficiently implemented, in particular, collecting statistical data, education of children and adults about the provisions and principles of the Convention, including implementation of the principle of respect for the views of the child in all laws, judicial and administrative decisions, policies and programs relating to children.

Considerable attention was paid to the resources and finances which are to be allocated for defense of the rights of children. The Committee recommended that Russia take the necessary measures to establish a single mechanism with a sufficient authority and adequate human, technical and financial resources in order to ensure effective coordination of activities on children’s rights across all sectors. Besides that it recommended to establish an effective system of monitoring and evaluation for the allocation and use of resources for children, thus providing transparency to the investment on children. It was also recommended that Russia introduce a transparent and competitive legal process for nominations and appointments to all posts of commissioners for children’s rights, ensuring that independent candidates are selected on competitive basis and are free from political or other influence and in full compliance with the Paris Principles.

The Committee stressed that the state should facilitate the operations of NGOs which work on children’s rights and urged Russia to repeal its 2012 law requiring human rights organizations which receive foreign funding to register as “foreign agents”, as well as to amend the definition of the crime of treason in the Criminal Code in order to ensure that non-governmental organizations working in the area of human rights and children’s rights can operate without any undue pressure from the state.

Substantial attention was paid to children placed in institutional care. In particular, the Committee recommended to change the principles for adoption of Russian children by foreign nationals, which were introduced by the “Dima Yakovlev” Federal Act of 28 December 2012 in order to facilitate the process of adoption and guarantee that the best interests of the child were not violated due to whatever political reasons.

Committee recommended to abolish the practice of mass institutionalization of children with disabilities, to ensure sufficient support for families of children with disabilities, urged Russia to guarantee education and developmental activities to children with mental disabilities and stop the practice of categorizing some children as “uneducable”.

The Committee made several important recommendations concerning prevention of discrimination against children, namely:

– to include into the National Strategy of Action in the interests of children some antidiscrimination policies and programs in the interests of children of minority groups with allocation of proper resources for them at national and regional levels;

– to adopt a comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation, including the definition of racial discrimination and ensure that such law includes and criminalizes discrimination on all grounds; to take urgent measures to prevent discrimination against categories of children in marginalized and disadvantaged situations, including children belonging to minority groups, Roma children, children of irregular migrant workers, children of stateless persons, girls in North Caucasus,  and children who do not possess permanent residence registration;

– to prevent involvement of children in nationalist movements by educating them on non-discrimination and human rights principles.

– to prevent attacks against people coming from ethnic minorities, labor migrants, people belonging to various subcultures through education of people, especially young people, in principles of human rights and non-discrimination, as well as through improved supervision of the procurators over the activities of the law enforcement agencies; to investigate all such attacks and guarantee proper prosecution of their perpetrators.

The Committee also paid attention to the situation of children belonging to vulnerable groups: ethnic minorities, Roma, labor immigrants, LGBTI.

Children of labor migrants (including “irregular” – or “illegal” as they are usually called in Russia – immigrants) were also mentioned in the Committee’s recommendations:

– to allocate special budget means aimed to provide for the rights of children in  the most marginalized and disadvantaged  situations, especially children of labor migrants, including irregular migrants, and children lacking permanent registration;

– to provide access to adequate medical care, both preventive and urgent, to all children regardless of “regularity” of their status without any type of discrimination;

– to ensure that all children, including minority children, children of irregular migrant workers and asylum seeking children in the territory of Russia have access to free and compulsory education up to the age of 18 years without any discrimination;

– to prevent discriminatory initiatives against children of migrant workers, including the new draft law on non-admission of children of migrant workers without a tax certificate;

– to abolish the rule of every 90 days renewal of residence permits for children of migrant workers and ensure that such children are allowed to stay and study in schools for the duration of the residence permit of their parents;

Regarding Roma children the Committee recommended:

– to ensure that all children born in Russia irrespective of the status of their parents are registered on the same terms as children born to Russian citizens and are issued with a standard birth certificate;

– to prevent acts of violence and ill treatment of Roma children, to stop anti-Roma raids throughout the country;

– to cease the practice of separating children from mothers due to lack of necessary documentation;

– to put an end to segregation of Roma children and provide them with equal access to quality education both in primary and secondary schools, by providing special preparatory classes, if required.

The Committee urged the Russian Federation to guarantee an adequate and sustainable standard of living for all children within its territory, with particular focus on children  in  the most marginalized and disadvantaged  situations  such as Roma children and children of migrant workers, including children of irregular migrant workers, by providing them with appropriate accommodation, access to social and health services and benefits, nutrition and education. The Committee also recommended that Russia take measures to ensure that employers respect the rights of migrant workers and enforce the working hours established by law. The Committee stressed  that the best interests of the child should always be taken as a primary consideration in cases of divorce or separation of parents in order to protect children, especially on their right to housing.

Regarding harmful traditional practices the Committee recommended:

– to ensure that acts of violence against women and girls, including “honor killings” and “bride kidnappings” in the Northern Caucasus are effectively investigated, that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and that victims of such abuses obtain redress;

– to prevent early marriages of girls in the region by developing and undertaking comprehensive awareness-raising programs, targeting in particular traditional and religious leaders, parents and state parliamentarians,  as well as by  prohibiting by law the withdrawal of children from school because of marriage;

– to take legal, administrative and educational measures  to discourage polygamy which can have adverse effects on children.

Regarding children of indigenous peoples the Committee recommended:

– to establish a clear regulatory framework for the oil and gas industries and coal extraction businesses operating in Russia to ensure that their activities do not negatively affect human rights or endanger environmental and other standards, especially those relating to indigenous children’s rights;

– to preserve the cultural and linguistic identity and heritage of indigenous children by ensuring that they receive basic education also in their native language to the extent possible;

– to facilitate traditional way of life of indigenous groups, including access to the traditional diet;

– to improve its health care facilities and services in remote villages of indigenous groups.

Regarding LGBTI children and children from LGBTI families the Committee not only recommended to abolish laws criminalizing “propaganda of homosexuality”, but also urged to adopt additional measures to defend these children against discrimination, violence and bullying in school. In all areas related to detention of children, their health and social security, it was recommended to provide protection to LGBTI children and their families. Special recommendation was made to put an end to the coercive treatment of transsexual and  homosexual persons, in particular children, and  to  attempts to diagnose transsexuality as psychiatric disease.

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