60,000 thousand rubles for a father In the Perm Region, young mothers are given subsidies, but only if their child has been claimed by a father. Now this will change.
Photo: Pavel Bednyakov / TASS
On April 19, Maxim Reshetnikov, the acting governor of the Perm Region, demanded that amendments be made to a regional law on benefits for families which violates the rights of single mothers and their children. Currently, the law provides for the payment of subsidies only to married mothers or those with children with proven paternity. Meduza relates why not all children are equal before Permian law and what amendments are being discussed.
What is this law?
Perm’s regional law “On the Protection of the Family, Motherhood, Paternity, and Childhood” was adopted last December and came into force on January 1, 2017. According to the law, young mothers can receive a one-time subsidy in the amount of 60,000 rubles ($1,066) for a child. In order to receive the subsidy, however, you must be between 19 and 24 years of age, the child must be born between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2019, and a woman must be married or have formally established the child’s paternity. Young or unmarried mothers, or those whose children’s fathers have not been identified, are ineligible.
In an interview with Meduza, Perm regional representative Maxim Oborin called the law an additional “measures to support the birth-rate of the Kama region,” stressing that it was intended to support families and women who had given birth to a first child who had a father, rather than discriminate against those who do not have one. According to Oborin, the bill was discussed with and supported by young mothers and public organizations before it being ratified into law.
Member of Perm’s regional legislative assembly and one of the authors of the law, Sergei Kleptsin, said that the law was adopted for ideological reasons: “Today we have the situation in which people born in the 1990s, a period of serious demographic crisis, increasingly decide on deferring the birth of the firstborns. If we do not [support] young women born in the 1990s, we face the threat of a double demographic crisis.”
Why were some single mothers and their children stripped of their rights?
Sergei Kleptsin, who is listed on the official website of Perm’s regional legislative assembly, as the coordinator of a federal project titled “Russia is important to every child,” believes that the state should support the idea of conscious parenthood through restrictions. Speaking live on television channel NTV, he explained why some young single mothers should not count on help: “I have experience in the birth of planned and desired children. It is absolutely certain that the birth of random children occurs after discotheques, get-togethers, corporate parties, and the like.”
Perm’s regional Children’s Rights Commissioner Pavel Mikov displays the same attitude towards women who give birth and raise children without fathers. In an interview with BBC Russian, Mikov said that such women did not have the right to receive one-time payments, because “a woman must first think about [whose children] she gives birth [to] and with whom she wishes to link her fate. If she meets an irresponsible man, sorry, but [this was] her choice [and] the state should not support such negative social phenomena.”
The law was adopted amidst a propaganda campaign on banning abortion as a way to increase the birthrate. A ban on abortion is supported by Russia’s children’s rights Anna Kuznetsova, Russia’s supreme mufti Taglat Tajuddin, and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, who, in September 2016, signed a petition calling for the eliminating abortions from being covered by Russia’s national medical insurance system. Russian social campaigns, such as “Once pregnant give birth,” insist that a woman should give birth in any case, including in those situations when the father is unknown or even in the event of rape.
Why does Permian law discriminate against certain women?
In an interview with Meduza, human rights activist and lawyer Marie Davtyan said that both the law and statements by officials humiliate and attack all women, not just single mothers. According to Davtyan, law should not bear a didactic role or make women feel ashamed for raising a child without a father. “The state should not participate in private life and decide who has children and how. We are not forbidden from being single mothers. Therefore, [the deputies’] decision is an absolute violation of the law.” Davtyan stressed that single mothers are the most vulnerable group of women with children, as they are burdened by responsibility of raising a child alone.
Elena Kotova, the head of the Cradle of Hope foundation and the mastermind behind the idea of baby boxes said in an interview with Meduza that the Perm legislators are confusing notions: “This payment is not for a mother or for her needs, but for belongings for the child. It should be forbidden to discuss women. In addition to giving birth, a woman brings a child up and educates him, instead of abandoning him. It is wrong to criticize that.”
In Kotova’s opinion, one cannot insist that all women give birth in wedlock, be critical of single mothers, or rank the circumstances of that lead to a pregnancy. All children, regardless of whether they have a father, should receive assistance from the state: “It is not a child’s fault that his father did not want to take responsibility and did not marry his mother [or] give [the child] his name.”
Will the law be changed?
Both the law and Kleptsin’s speech on NTV have sparked a heated public debate. On April 19, at a meeting of the government of Perm Region, governor Maxim Reshetnikov addressed the region’s Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Abdullina with the question: “What is the fundamental intention of [this rule]?” She answered that the intention [was] to support families in marriage. “But you do not require a marriage certificate. You are referring specifically [to those cases where] father’s name is missing from a birth certificate,” objected Reshetnikov. The public response has been noteworthy and I think that the rule is, at the very least, ambiguous. So at the next legislative assembly, prepare and ratify a bill that eliminates this discrimination.”
Reshetnikov’s spokeswoman Darya Levchenko explained that the current law was approved by another local government (Maxim Reshetnikov was appointed governor on February 6, 2017). The current head of the Perm Region is demanding that the law be amended so that young single mothers can also expect a one-time payment. Amendments to the law will have to be reviewed at the next meeting of the local parliament, which is scheduled to take place on June 1.