Wednesday, 2 December

On July 11, the Verkhovna Rada adopted in the first reading a loud bill № 6607. At the same time bill № 6,449 was adopted as well. Both bills deal with the responsibility for sexual crimes against children, but they contain mutually exclusive rules. For example, 6607 offers an open registry of pedophiles and voluntary castration, and 6649 – exactly the opposite. There are also different sanctions for specified crimes. The icing on the cake was a statement made by Deputy Interior Minister Vadym Troyan: “I propose to accept both bills, and let the Higher Constitutional Court decide which law will work…”

It is very difficult to read bad news. Outraged society is looking for guilty ones and trying to understand how to protect children. However, trying to protect a child, unfortunately, we often violate its rights so much that consequences are only worse.

The Government, it seems, is not ready to deal with the problem systematically and coherently. Although regulatory and legislative documents today are being adopted very massively, it is easy to get lost in them not only for a citizen, but also for officials themselves, and they are obliged to comply with them. Moreover, this is not surprising, the thing that should work consistently and be structured is in fact very often unconnected and contradictory. Reliable statistics are missing. The system of bodies, whose competence includes the protection of the rights of the child and the provision of social services is weakened. The staffing level of child services and social services centers for children, families and young people is extremely low.

The social order mechanism is missing. There are not enough specialists ‒ social workers, psychologists, teachers, policemen, doctors. In practice, quite often, there are questions about the timely detection of child abuse and the possibility of an appropriate response to such a situation ‒ there is no interdepartmental interaction, and without this, it is extremely difficult to identify problems or make prompt decisions.

In the 90s, we experienced a phenomenon, when children were thrown out on the street. Today’s ashes, instead of social policy in Ukraine, have led to domestic homelessness, and very often children are in danger at home.

It would seem that the problem should be tackled by the “Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence”, adopted a year and a half ago, which came into force on January 11, 2019. The role of the Central Commissioner for the Prevention and Counteraction of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse is played by the Ministry of Social Policy, and more specifically, these issues are within the purview of the Deputy Minister Nataliya Fedorovych.

However, not everything is so simple. In addition, because of the law’s implementation, additional posts have been introduced only in Kyiv so far (they plan to introduce them in Odesa). Moreover, it’s mostly because of the dispersion of areas of responsibility. Unfortunately, most of the violence’s targets, including domestic one, are children. However, Oleksandra Churkina, deputy for European integration, is responsible for them in the Ministry of Social Policy.

When questions are divided, the topic always suffers from the shortcomings of interdepartmental interaction and internal inconsistencies. In addition, there is a feeling that even in the Law on Domestic Violence children appeared not naturally and not at first. “This is true,” Nataliya Fedorovych says. “The children’s block was finalized already in the parliamentary committee of the family and youth between the first and second reading. More than 500 amendments have been made.

We have already made a number of by-laws (in particular, on the mechanism of interdepartmental interaction ‒ what should be the reaction and interaction of ministries and departments at the central, regional and local levels), but now I see a huge problem with the fact that there is no serious document on children yet. And, frankly speaking, it has happened due to the circumstances that have emerged in the Ministry of Social Policy, the functional, divided between two deputies and lack of professionalism on the part of some ministry employees, who also have big ambitions.

In fact, we developed the corresponding mechanism back in April last year but did not find understanding, so we were forced to exclude a whole block on children from the resolution. The point that the issue of fixating reports of violence against children, the provision of services to them, regulated by a separate document was removed at some stage of the adoption of the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers №800 “On some issues of social protection of children in difficult life circumstances, including those that may threaten their life and health”. This seriously bogged down further work on resolving these issues.

On the one hand, there is a problem of insufficient settlement of issues, related to the protection of the rights of children, who are victims of domestic violence. On the other hand, there is huge incompetence of workers at the local and regional levels, which, in my opinion, is associated with a lack of control. We have lost the general supervision of the prosecutor’s office ‒ it seems to be good because we are going with international standards. However, we were not told what the control mechanism should be.”

Meanwhile, the whole block of issues related to family policy should be holistic. After all, the reform of deinstitutionalization is also a topic, closely connected with violence. On the one hand, orphanages are places of restraint. It is proved that the best place for a child to be is in the family. On the other hand, attempts at any cost, supposedly out of good considerations, to return a child to a biological family, while not clarifying the circumstances too much, sometimes lead to very sad cases. Such as happened in Zhytomyr region, when a father killed, and then burned the body of his five-year-old daughter. A few months before the girl was returned to the biological family from the family-type orphanage. There, where they had taken her because of violence…

Without analyzing the causes of a child’s death, their identification and the elimination of gaps in the legislation, to call for the continuation of deinstitutionalization, not regulated in any way by normative acts, is at least dangerous for children. Moreover, for officials too, because children are dying. However, officials are in no hurry to draw conclusions. “Personal Mailbox is simply crammed with something like “There is no place for children. They demand to take them from the orphanage. Children with status, teenagers. There are no foster families or family-type orphanages. Help!” Lyudmyla Volynets, an expert on the protection of the rights of the child, shared on her Facebook page. “And then in the report from the region, they are actively disbanding orphanages. In the same region, they ask to keep orphanages open. Common sense has been lost somewhere.”

“Preventing violence is a long process,” Nataliya Fedorovych says. “It should be about changing the consciousness of society: the people themselves (this is the most difficult), officials and employees of state institutions, who must respond. The key to the implementation of the Law on Domestic Violence is a permanent work at all local levels. Professionals should consider specific situations of violence. In the beginning, they will not have answers to many questions. I am confident of this, and we must speak frankly about this. However, the answers can be found only when you ask a question, take the law and by-laws, look at what is written there. And if you don’t find it, then go to the relevant authorities, to the ministry, and say: these issues are not settled here. However, I do not hear any questions when I hold a bi-weekly selector with regional and city offices, services, centers. Moreover, this indicates that people do not consider specific cases, do not see problems. Without this, we will not be able to work out high-quality mechanisms.

The problem of violence cannot be considered separately, it is complex, and the response to it must also be complex. Article 16 of the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence is about the creation of a register of incidents of violence. For me, it is important that it should be integrated into the Unified Information Analytical System of the Ministry of Social Policy, which is now being created with the support of the World Bank.

This registry is interdepartmental. The idea is that entering information about a case, for example, by a school psychologist, will allow an officer in charge of children’s affairs to see and respond immediately. Also, the police officer should include the family in the list of those, who, having checked the grounds for this, are likely to put on preventive registration in order to work with them in the future and prevent violence.

Now, it takes three to four weeks to go to the police before the service workers start doing their job.”

“Daily report on the death of children, are like reports from the front,” the first deputy chairman of the National Police Vyacheslav Abroskin, who actively encourages the deputies to vote for the bill №6607 on the introduction of the Unified register of persons convicted of crimes against sexual freedom and sexual immunity of minors and increased accountability for such crimes, wrote on his Facebook page.

“Don’t rush to clap your hands”, writes human rights activist, director of the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research, Denys Kobzin on his Facebook page, and lists the controversial points of the bill. In particular: the provisions of the law do not oblige the heads of children’s institutions to check their employees in the register. It will be closed, and in fact, will repeat the already existing databases of law enforcement agencies. “There is no diagnosis of “pedophile”; there is no one to put it. Accordingly, there will be no one to appear in the courts and work on the ground, assessing the risks of repeated crime. “And the saddest thing is that this law is aimed at a “sex predator” wandering along the street, while most cases of pedophilia occur in the family and on the Internet. However, in the law, there is not a single word about what work should be done to prevent such crimes, who and how should teach children to avoid risks,” the human rights activist concludes.

“I don’t consider the bill 6607 to be a panacea, but I support it,” Lyudmyla Volynets writes. “At the same time, we should understand that among those who are 12-16 years old today, there are those, who feel this unnatural attraction, who themselves have recently become a victim, and are now forming as a criminal. Often, these children come into the field of vision of social and law enforcement specialists and, as a rule, hear from them: “If you continue this, you will be jailed.”

Despite the fact that the children’s police in their English-language name “juvenile prevention” retain the concept of “prevention”, no one does this prevention. We lack fundamental, Ukrainian research on the formation of the identity of the offender against children. Therefore, the current rapists attended Ukrainian school. Ukrainian social services with thousands of social activities were on Ukrainian preventive account.

We do not understand how all these public services work to promote non-violent behavior ‒ we should not expect a decrease in crimes against children.

It is necessary not only to introduce the castration of criminals but also react to the needs of the person, which is formed as a criminal. So that one does not commit dangerous things to people.

Today, candidates for people’s deputies do not speak about the problems of children. And even after the elections, they will not speak.”

Meanwhile, social policy involves not only payments but also the prevention of situations, effective and adequate solutions. It should always be carried out, not only several months before the elections, and not only in terms of the payment of material assistance.

“Everyone agrees that the safety of children and the protection of their rights should be a priority. However, the topic is not interesting to politicians. The election programs of the parties mention fragmentary, primitive, slogans on social policy. It says “what”, but “who” and “how” is unknown,” Dariya Kasyanova, the chairman of the board of the Ukrainian Network for Children’s Rights and national program director of SOS Children’s Towns of Ukraine, writes on her Facebook page.

And from understanding that it is still too far before the closure of the bleeding “holes” in the legislation, and in consciousness, sometimes they give up. Should we wait for the good news?

By Hanna Drozd

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