Parental negligence to be punished

Those parents who leave children alone at home, outside and elsewhere should be punished for parental negligence, the authorities said. Source: Kommersant

Those parents who leave children alone at home, outside and elsewhere should be punished for parental negligence, the authorities said. Source: Kommersant

After a series of tragedies involving children left alone, a group of Duma deputies have suggested that the legislators should address the issue of parental negligence taking into account the U.S. experience.

A group of State Duma deputies has proposed discussing legislative changes to allow for tougher prosecution of parents who leave children alone at home, outside or in cars. The range of possible penalties for parental negligence is yet to be discussed, but the deputies say they will be guided by international practice. The new regulations could be discussed as early as this fall’s legislative session.

The legislative move was brought about by recent tragedies involving children left alone. On July 1, five-year old Timofei Kaminichenko fell out of a fifth-floor window while he was home alone. Also in early July Bogdan Prakhov, five, was kidnapped and later killed after being left alone outside. On July 15, a woman in the Tomsk region left her three children alone at home and one of them died in an incident involving the oven while she was out. On July 19, two children aged two and four died in a fire in the Bashkortostan region while they were home alone.  

“If we consider the terrifying statistics of children who have been lost, missing fallen into open sewers and suffered injuries, it is clear that such measures are in order,” said Olga Batalina, senior vice chairman of the Duma Committee for Women’s, Family and Children’s affairs and the assistant secretary of the general council of the United Russia party. “The question is how to ensure appropriate parental responsibility for looking after their children during the day.”

However, Batalina warns, it will be challenging to create a reasonable approach that will actually work.

“We cannot supervise every parent, so it is important that the regulations be reasonable,” Batalina said. “We need to search for balanced laws, and I am ready for a dialogue and discussion of the issue with the public, public organizations and civil institutions.”

The legislators will first determine debate the age, circumstances and the period of time of children can be left alone without triggering the penalties.

“It is really important not to exaggerate the issue, because children aged 12-14 years can actually go to music or artistic schools on their own. There is no need for bans that would put an end to any additional education opportunities for the children,” said Batalina. “Not all parents are able to meet their children from school and there’s really no need to do so if the school is next door. Furthermore, it is impossible to make provisions for all possible cases in just one law – just how far away the facility should be or how much time the kid can spend alone.”

The United States imposes some of the toughest measures of any country for parental negligence. Parents cannot leave any children under 12 unattended and if neighbors notice that parents have done so, they can call the police or social services. Social services may then take the child into the care of the state and temporarily deprive parents of their parental rights until the parents prove they can care for their child properly.

Said Marina, a Russian journalist working in the United States: “If I have to go to a shop at night while my son’s at home doing his homework, I turn the lights on in all rooms as a disguise and leave through the back door, so that ourneighbors don’t notice me.”

Children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov supports the legislators’ initiative.

“The father and the mother are any child’s main protectors. Parents are obligated to protect their children and guarantee their safety,” Astakhov said. “When they fail to do so, tragedies occur. We start looking for causes and it turns out that there are no parental responsibility laws. And can be no liability where there is no responsibility.”

According to Astakhov, the issue has to be publicly discussed before any penalties are determined.

“First, we must solve the existing daycare problems all over the country, make sure there are full-day schools. Then, if parents ignore the options provided by the government and leave their children unattended, they will need to be punished,” Astakhov said.

Alexandra Ochirova, president of the group Women’s Future and a member of the public council of the Federal Security Service said that the matter of parental responsibility for children left unattended was discussed four or years ago by the Public Chamber.

“I am glad to see our proposals have finally been heard by members of the parliament,” Ochirova said.

This article appears in the original Russian in the Izvestia newspaper.

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