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Moscow’s Helsinki Watch Group: The Concept of State Family Policy Breaches Norms of International Law

Moscow: 3 February 2014

Moscow’s Helsinki Watch Group (MHWG) has produced a report on “The situation of children in the Russian Federation in 2013”. In it, human rights activists provide a detailed analysis of the social project “The Concept of the Russian Federation’s State Family Policy up to 2025”.

Experts believe that the new Concept of Family Policy is a logical extension of the National Children’s Action Plan for 2012-2017, and reflects state practice in relation to the welfare and protection of children’s rights. According to representatives from MHWG, the state has in recent times mainly spoken of children in the context of concern for the nation’s demographics. Developed in 2013, the Concept represents a shift in so-called traditional family values aimed at preserving the family institution in order to bring about an increase in population growth.

According to the results of recent polls, the majority of Russians share the basic principles of the Orthodox Church as regards family matters. These are the fundamental values of the Domistroi which prevailed in the 16th Century, namely total devotion to God, Tsar and the Church. The basic tenet of children’s education dictated that they be “brought up with good discipline and taught to fear God”.

At the same time, according to data produced by the Yuri Levada Analytical Centre (Levada Centre), 55% of Russians can relate to the fact that young people are increasingly living together for longer and not getting married, while 43% are pleased that children are being born in civil marriages. According to human rights activists, “In the eyes of the public, divorce is no longer regarded as a bad thing nor as a last resort, but something that is quite natural and an option for people to consider within the context of their relationship”.

MHWG experts are concerned that in protecting children from western values (the law on “Banning propaganda of non-traditional sexual attitudes” and the Dima Yakovlev law) the authorities can strike a decisive blow to the interests of children.

As has been noted, one of the reasons for the breakdown in traditional Russian family values and the interrelationship between parents and children is the introduction of the principle of prioritising the rights of both groups within modern Russian family culture.

The MHWG believes that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is not at odds with the rights of children and parents – on the contrary, it acknowledges the significance of the rights and responsibilities of parents to bring up their child in accordance with these rights. These include the rights of every child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the importance of tradition and cultural values of all peoples in the protection and harmonious development of the child.

Russia is currently a party to numerous agreements, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 25 October 1980. According to the MHWG, the Concept of the State’s Family Policy is heavily critical of international human rights standards and recognises the need to protect children from them.

Experts have concluded that “it can be said that current progress in state family policy and, in part, the legal regulation of children’s welfare, will not be taken forward according to the norms of international law in cases where such norms conflict with traditional Russian family values”.

Author: Daria Shapovalova

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