You are here: Anastasia Doronicheva on children's rights in Russia

In 1989, the landmark United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention sets out basic human rights that every child should have. Since then almost every country has ratified it, except the US and Somalia. Nevertheless, UNICEF states that in 2011, a staggering 6.9 million children under five months old died, two-thirds of which could have been prevented.

According to another UNICEF report, in Russia alone over 50,000 children were born to HIV+ parents, and the chances of the children inheriting the illness are high. In addition, a 2008 trial census showed there to be around 700,000 orphans in Russia, a number of whom have medical conditions or disabilities.

Regarding children's upbringing, the Convention states that:

“Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding”

Yet the chances of Russian orphans being adopted in their native country are slim, and it is very difficult, or in some cases impossible, for people from other countries to adopt a child from Russia. Earlier this year, the Russian Duma approved a law that bans the adoption of Russian children by US citizens. It is estimated that over the last two decades, Americans have adopted over 60,000 Russian children. In 2011 alone, US citizens adopted 1,000 children, which placed the US in the top three countries that adopts from Russia.

Furthermore, in July, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law which not only bans same-sex couples from adopting children from Russia but also heterosexual couples from countries where homosexual marriages are legal. This drastically limits the opportunities for these children to be adopted, leaving them to live in orphanages until the age of 16 or 17, and to be turned away after. At this point a number of these children end up in crime, alcohol-abuse or prostitution.

UNICEF’s position on inter-country is that:

“For children who cannot be raised by their own families, an appropriate alternative family environment should be sought in preference to institutional care which should be used only as a last resort and as a temporary measure. Inter-country adoption is one of a range of care options which may be open to children, and for individual children who cannot be placed in a permanent family setting in their countries of origin, it may indeed be the best solution.”

Such unnecessary restrictions on the adoption of Russian orphans means that many will remain in orphanages and never enjoy a family environment. The world has moved on since the Convention was adopted. Globally the situation has improved. But in Russia the situation is saddening; and recent adoption laws will only make the life of Russian orphans worse.

Anastasia Doronicheva is a Membership Administration & Projects Intern at UNA-UK.

Anastasia Doronicheva