Boris Altshuler: The Russian Orthodox Church should not forget that small children are being beaten (Rosbalt)

posted 11 Jul 2016, 02:32 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Jul 2016, 02:33 ]
5 July 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Rosbalt]

Criminalising the use of physical force against children by their caregivers is a step in the right direction by Russian lawmakers, since the level of violence within Russian families is extraordinarily high, and the Church should not oppose this tightening up of legislation given that children as young as three years of age are subject to beatings from their parents. These and other opinions on the subject have been expressed by Boris Altshuler, a human rights activist, head of the organisation “Right of the Child” and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

On 4 July, Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, signed amendments to the Criminal Code which partially decriminalise Article 116 “Battery”. The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed its concern in this respect, and the Patriarch’s Commission on the Family, Protection of Motherhood and Childhood has stated that the provision may result in criminal proceedings being brought against parents who apply “moderate and reasonable” punishments to their children.

According to Altshuler, “The saying ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ has a place only in societies where children are still regarded as chattels. What is “reasonable and moderate” violence? I personally believe that violence should never be used against children. After all, this provision has not been amended because parents are smacking their children “reasonably and moderately”. According to statistics from the Investigative Committee, the number of tragedies involving small children and the level of systematic abuse is enormous. Children fall prey to the fists of a drunken father or an angry mother, and – perhaps most surprisingly of all – the statistics show that it is children between 0 and 3 years of age who are beaten most frequently in Russia. Corporal punishment should never be used against children this young, because they simply don’t have the requisite level of understanding. And yet adults cast themselves in the role of policeman, demand instant obedience and use physical force if they don’t get it. These parents have the understanding of a three-year-old child themselves, and yet they can demand obedience because they hold all the power. It’s high time that attitudes like this were stamped out.”

The human rights activist believes that the new provision should reduce the level of violence and physical abuse within families, since a man who knows that he could theoretically end up in prison for two years will think twice before he terrorises his family, with the possibility of criminal proceedings hanging over his head.

Altshuler continues, “The concerns expressed by the Patriarch’s Commission are understandable – the Church is worried about possible excesses by the authorities – but that doesn’t mean we should ignore what the Investigative Committee is telling us. Everyone knows there are two sides to every story, and that is also true in this case. The first is the need to stop violence against children, and the second is the need to prevent any possible excesses by the authorities. It is indeed important to understand the difference between a pedagogically motivated smack by a loving mother and actual violence. At the same time, however, it would be a grievous error to object to the legislation itself. Terrible things are going on in our country, and they must be stopped.”

Translated by Joanne Reynolds