Dangerous tendencies in the situation with women’s and children’s rights in Belarus
Currently, the situation around the rights of women and children is progressively becoming worth. We have spotted the dangerous tendencies already in 2015; these tendencies are becoming more pronounced.
Below we list some of the more prominent cases that would require international attention. Through our monthly monitoring of women’s and children’s rights we have accumulated more cases, but not all of them are covered.
We cite the real names of children and mothers who are still alive. We do it for the single purpose of eliminating illegal practices, and this is easier to do when we provide the actual data. None of the mothers (or grandmothers) is a drug addict or alcoholic listed in the state database. None of them has a criminal record.
We do not provide the names of children who died or tried to commit suicide when the public guardianship service interfered into their lives. However, we do have these data and we can provide those on request.
Why we consider these issues a systemic problem
- Similar situations are documented in various towns and villages of the country, almost in every region;
- Cases are so similar that one even can suspect a conspiracy. In fact, the system provides the abusers with opportunities to abuse their power and get away with that;
- Overwhelming majority of the documented cases are local conflicts between individuals/ families and the state bodies. At this, individuals are usually not a nation-wide known persons but instead are ordinary people.
Conflicts with Schools
- Mark Kravets is a violin player who has won several international awards. He is a 4th year student at the school no 183 in Minsk. Mark is a quiet and intelligent Jewish boy. His classmates started mobbing him because of his nationality and personality traits (the boy is quiet and is not able to fight back). His mother Irina Kravets have repeatedly communicated the situation first to the homeroom teacher, and then to the school principle Liudmila Anufrikova. The school administration did nothing to protect the boy, but also started to participate in the mobbing. The mother turned for justice to the department of education, but the department of education also joined the mobbing crowed together with police. For example, Andrei Liubetskii, a police officer, has 6 (!!!) times files falsified protocols and tried to fine the mother for “failing to perform her parental duties”. Our House activists appealed and won all the 6 court cases. But this does not stop Liubetskii officer and the police department of the Partizanskii district, and they continue harassing the child (https://nash-dom.info/39792). We badly need to attract international attention to this situation. The boy is extremely talented, one of the rare talents. Due to the harassment by the state bodies he had to switch to home schooling, and has fewer opportunities for developing his music talents. Read more here: https://nash-dom.info/38110, https://nash-dom.info/36822, https://nash-dom.info/36591, https://nash-dom.info/41321, https://nash-dom.info/39890, https://nash-dom.info/37751.
Mark is in a crisis situation, as the police and the state bodies continue harassing him.
- A conflict with the school administration turned into a source of troubles for the 14 year old Anastasiia Antonenko. Here the hell broke loose after Anastaiia’s mother asked to have her sitted at a different desk and pointed out to the fact that the school canteen gives no bills for the services provided. As a result the girl was kidnapped from school by the employees of the public guardianship services and sent to a state orphanage. The family was told that the girl will be further placed into a psychiatric ward. This decision was officially justified by the poor living conditions (one of the rooms of the house where the family lives lacks heating) and the fact that the mother is uneployed. Read the full story here: https://vkurier.by/12726. The girl’s father is a freelance journalist whose articles are published by several media outlets, including Vitsebskii Kurier. The conflict is now in full swing. Presently Anastaiia, who has been living in an orphanage for two years, is pregnant. We are wondering how the child could get pregnant in a orphanage, and why none of the state employees is held responsible. It is needless to say, that nothing like that happened when the child was staying with her parents.
Conflict with Local Administrations
Here cases include power abuse by the local civil servants, who harass children as a revenge for the activities of their parents (frequently connected to the local conflicts) including kidnapping children from schools and hospitals by the employees of the public guardianship services
- 13 year old Nikita Shumilo was kidnapped from the hospital by the employees of the state guardianship services because his foster mother Svetlana Grechulina expressed her indignation at the conditions of health improvement for the adopted. The boy has even written a letter to Alexandr Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, which was left unanswered. Currently the employees of the public guardianship service are using all the means available to disrupt communication between Svetlana Grechulina and her son Nikita. Even Nikita’s sister Yulia Berezina was refused the right of custody over Nikita (https://nash-dom.info/38188, https://nash-dom.info/36362, https://vkurier.by/59490). Nikita has not returned home till now, he started drinking and smoking.
- Tatiana Cherviakova is an active participant of all political campaigns, she was collecting signatures for opposition candidates in 2010 and 2015 elections and in all the parliamentary elections. Her husband got sick and died, and Tatiana was left with a 14-year old son Zakhar Cherviakov. The state bodies have discovered that she has not payed her electricity bills on time, she was fined, and her child was taken to an orphanage. Due to the efforts of the Our House activists the child was returned home (https://vkurier.by/76997).
- Kristina Bogrets is doing her best to regain custody rights over her 15 year old grandchild Gleb Bogrets who was allegedly left without supervision when his grandmother was taken to a hospital for a surgery. In fact, while the grandmother was in the hospital, Gleb was staying home with his uncle and aunt. The teachers have lured the child out to come to school (at that point Gleb had a cold and was staying home) from where he was kidnapped by the employees of the public guardianship service in the most humiliating The court ruled to send the boy to the Sennenstakaya residential school justifying this decision by the poor living conditions and the alleged educational failures of the boy. However the grandmother of the boy lives in downtown Vitebsk, where the prices for real estate are skyrocketing, and Gleb has only good grades at school. Gleb tried to file a court case himself, but he was declined under pretext that he is not a victim, but a witness (in other words, the court claims that it is none of the boys business where he is going live, at home with the grandmother or in an orphanage). We, however, suspect that the state officials are trying to raid the grandmother’s property (the apartment can be confiscated if the child stays in foster care). I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that 15 year old boy is not completely helpless, and is able to stay home with his aunt and uncle for a couple of days (https://vkurier.by/78781).
Children’s suicide and death of mothers as a result of pressure from the state bodies
Unfortunately, humiliation leads to tragedy, when children are attempting suicides (some succeed) due to the measure taken by the public guardianship services.
- One of the adoptive families faced a tragic situation when the father pressurized by the state officials committed a suicide. After that the state bodies tried to take the children away from their mother Irina Motsnaya, who ran away from town and hid in the countryside. She was discovered, taken to court and sentenced to four years of forced labour in detention due to her insubordination to police orders. The children were taken away. In less than a year the older 17 year old adopted son committed a suicide unable to adapt to the destruction of the family and the loss of his mother.
- А 7-year old girl’s face was disfigured while she was staying in an orphanage. She was taken away from a mother who allegedly led “an immoral life” (https://nash-dom.info/36428). However the legislation provides no definition of the “immoral life”; here one can talk about mother’s homosexuality or other similar behaviours. As a result the girl (and we are deliberately mentioning here that this is a girl we are talking about since Belarussian society values a girl mostly for her looks) has a “an injury of the left cheek and gum on the right. There is a scar left by healing. The conclusion of the forensic examination is that the scar is not possible to eliminate. рана левой щеки и челюстной области справа. При заживлении травм образовались рубцы. Such bodily injuries are qualified as hard”. After the incident the state employees came to a conclusion that the mother is not immoral after all, and the child was returned to her. However none of the state employees was held responsible for disfiguring the girl’s face. Who will be held accountable for the injuries?
- In Gantsevichi a 12 year old child, who was forcefully separated from his parents tried to commit a suicide and is now in intensive care (http://www.ganc-chas.by/by/page/news/9419/). The orphanage administration claims that the suicide was triggered by unrequited love, but this is an unsubstantiated allegation, which nobody believes. The child was taken away from the family, his routine ruined and as a result he suffered a severe psychological trauma. One should take into account that the child comes from a two-parent family and has a mother and a father.
Not-direct killing of foster mothers by state
According to the regulations, if a foster mother needs emergency treatment and has to spend time in a hospital, she has to leave her children in an orphanage for this period. And even though the woman might have a husband (who is a foster father to these children) the employees of the state guardianship services will still take the child away for the period of mother’s hospitalization. One has to take into account that these are foster families we are talking about, and the children have already been traumatized by the loss of their biological families and the experience of living in a Belarussian orphanage, that’s why for them every return to the orphanage has severe psychological impact.
As a result foster mothers are refusing emergency care as they do not want to further traumatize their children by returning them to the orphanage even if for a short time period. We have documented at least two cases of foster mothers premature deaths (one of them, 40 years old died quite recently in Orsha) due to the late hospitalization. They did not want to go to the hospital until it was already too late. The relatives of one of the women gave us an interview, which we tape-recorded.
Repressions against independent media in Belarus if they interest the problem of mothers and children’s rights in Belarus.
Our House would also like to point out that this is a systemic, top-down situation, as the government of Belarus harasses and prosecutes the independent media, which publicizes children rights violations.
Thus, the Ministry of Information of Belarus has issued a warning to the independent online newspaper Vitebsky Kurier on December 26, 2016. As a result the newspaper may be shut down any time. The newspaper went to court to appeal the warning (https://vkurier.by/84338)
We would like to stress that it is unacceptable for authorities to harass independent media covering painful and socially meaningful issues, such as a relationship between a child and the state.
We need international solidarity and international attention to the cases.
P.S. “Our House”, in co-operation with “Adliga: Women for Full Citizenship”, monitor the situation with women’s rights in Belarus in general and with the rights of (socially active) mothers in particular. The results of this fact-finding work are presented in monthly reports. The next two reports are dealing with conflicts between police and mothers/ families that led to instances of power abuse by the former, as well with suicides cases. Contact us at [email protected] if you are interested in receiving these reports.