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Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reviews the report of Russia

Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights

26 September 2017

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Russia on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Alexey Cherkasov, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, introduced the report by underlining that any form of restriction of rights on social, racial, national, linguistic or religious grounds was prohibited, and went on to outline the progress in the realization of economic, social and cultural rights including a significant increase in the wages of medical workers, educators, cultural workers and social workers; development of an affordable housing market for low income individuals; the adoption of special measures to improve the material conditions of the family and mothers; and putting in place of the national strategy for women.  Russia had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, prohibited discrimination on the grounds of disability, and created over 44,200 jobs thus effectively increasing the employment rate of persons with disabilities from 37 to 42.5 per cent.  As one of the most multi-ethnic countries in the world, with 193 nationalities and peoples and more than 100 languages, Russia prioritised the goals of inter-ethnic peace and harmony, and the maintaining of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the country.  Progress notwithstanding, challenges in the areas of informal employment, illegal migration and relocation from emergency housing, remained, said Mr. Cherkasov in conclusion.

In the ensuing dialogue, Committee Experts asked about the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant and raised concern about the restrictions on non-governmental organizations, notably the “foreign agents” law which limited access to funding and the 2015 “undesirable organizations” law under which some non-governmental organizations could be shut down.  The delegation was asked about the rights of indigenous peoples, especially the federal recognition of the territories of traditional nature use, adequate protection of the indigenous tenure rights by the upcoming amendments, and the implementation of the obligation to seek free, prior and informed consent.  Poverty was discussed during the dialogue, with Experts noting with concern that 13 to 18 per cent of the population lived in relative or absolute poverty, and five million people lived on minimum wage which was below subsistence levels.  There were reports of discrimination against Roma and Sinti, migrant workers, stateless and homeless persons, drug users, sex workers, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and the delegation was asked when a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation would be adopted.  Finally, Experts asked about the situation of women’s rights in Russia and the reasons for the recent decriminalization of domestic violence.

In his concluding remarks, Michael Windfuhr, Committee Rapporteur for Russia, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue which demonstrated how engaged Russia was in ensuring the provisions of the Covenant, and where its priorities were. 

Maria Virginia Bras Gomes, Committee Chairperson, in her closing remarks, said that the concluding observations were not an end in themselves, but provided a useful guidance for the improvement of economic, social and cultural rights on the ground.

Mr. Cherkasov, in his closing statement, said that das a country with an immense territory populated by many ethnicities, Russia had chosen its own path, different from that of the rest of Europe, and thanked the Committee for raising some topics that were difficult to raise domestically.

The delegation of Russia included representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Culture, Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Permanent Mission of Russia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will resume in public at 10 a.m. on October 3, when it is scheduled to hold an informal meeting with States.

Report

The Committee is considering the sixth periodic report of Russia (E/C.12/RUS/6).

Presentation of the Report

ALEXEY CHERKASOV, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, said in the introduction of the report that Russia was a social State that guaranteed equal rights and freedoms and prohibited any form of restriction of rights of citizens on social, racial, national, linguistic or religious grounds.  This guarantee was proclaimed in the Constitution and was the basis of the State’s consistent efforts to create the conditions under which the free development and the dignified life of everyone should be ensured.  The work on progressing economic, social and cultural rights since the last review in May 2011 had taken into account the Committee’s recommendations in the areas of health, education, welfare, housing and social policy.  The achievements included a significant increase in the wages of medical workers, educators, cultural workers and social workers; development of an affordable housing market for low income individuals; and a full-fledged development of the rights of ethnicities.  Special measures had been adopted to improve the material conditions of the family and mothers. 

The legal framework on citizens’ rights had been expanded during the 2012-2016 period including by the adoption of the National Strategy of Action towards Children, law on the special assessment of working conditions, concept of the State’s family policy, and strategy for the elderly.  The National Strategy for the Interests of Women had been adopted in March 2017 which focused on women’s health, increasing women’s participation in social and political life, and gender equality; a coordination council for its implementation had been set up as well.  Russia had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and prohibited discrimination on the grounds of disability, created over 44,200 jobs for persons with disabilities which had increased their employment rate from 37 to 42.5 per cent, and had launched a programme to ensure that Russia was fully accessible by 2020. 

Mr. Cherkasov stressed the commitment of Russia to provide all rights to its citizens, and to modernize all aspects of economic, social and cultural life, despite the unilateral sanctions.  Russia was one of the most multi-ethnic States in the world, where 193 nationalities and peoples spoke more than 100 languages, said the Deputy Minister, who highlighted the goals of inter-ethnic peace and harmony, and the maintaining of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the country.  The Government was developing teaching in ethnic languages and was restoring cultural heritage facilities.  The programme for the implementation of the State ethnic policy had been adopted in 2016 and included the activities to develop the social economy of the North Siberian and Far East peoples, modernize their ways of life, and promote their education and culture.  In closing, Mr. Cherkasov reassured the Committee that the Russian Federation was working on improving the situation in the areas which, for objective reasons, were not being tackled fast enough, such as informal employment, illegal migration, and relocation from emergency housing.

Questions by Experts

MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Russia, recognized the achievements, took note of the remaining challenges, and asked about the intentions concerning the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Turning to the National Human Rights Commission of Russia, the Rapporteur asked whether the resources provided to it were sufficient and if its competencies were adequate.  What could explain the fact that the vast majority of the complaints received by the Commission were in the area of social and economic rights? 

How were the rights under the Covenant applied in the courts and what was being done to improve its applicability?

The Committee was very concerned about the environment in Russia which was not conducive to the operations of non-governmental organizations, including the restrictive law on their funding.  Of concern was also the 2015 law which empowered national institutions to decide whether activities of any given non-governmental organization represented a danger to society.  Another area of concern was the situation of human rights defenders, said Mr. Windfuhr noting that the Committee had been informed of harassment and threats against them.  What plans were in place to address this concern?

What measures were in place to guarantee that the persons living in the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, currently under the control of Russia, enjoyed their human rights?

Russia had no plans to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, noted the Rapporteur, and asked about the application of due diligence by companies in Russia.  On climate change, what steps were being taken to implement the Paris Agreement, which groups would be most affected by the global warming, and which measures would be adopted to this effect? 

Turning to the rights of indigenous peoples, the Rapporteur noted that land tenure was a recurring issue and that the non-recognition of some 500 territories as territories of traditional nature use by the Federal Government was creating a large insecurities for indigenous peoples locally.  Two federal laws had further weakened the protection of the land rights of the indigenous peoples by allowing local authorities to decide where the investments would take place. 

The delegation was asked when would the Federal Government finally accept the territories of traditional nature use; how the planned amendments to the 2001 law on “Territories of Traditional Nature Use” would adequately protect the indigenous tenure rights; and when the obligation to seek free, prior and informed consent by indigenous peoples would be put in practice.  How would the Government respond to the demand of the Shor people for reparations for the destruction of their Kazas village?

The Rapporteur also inquired about the resources for the implementation of the economic social and cultural rights, asking how much was needed, whether the taxation level was sufficient to meet the needs, and the impact of the sanctions on the availability of resources?  Could the delegation compare the social spending with the resources allocated to the armed forces? 

Currently, only 0.08 per cent of the gross domestic product was allocated as an official development assistance, which was quite low; would this percentage be increased and how much would be allocated to support the global climate adaptation funds such as the green climate funds?

The Committee had been informed of discrimination against Roma, migrant workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, stateless and homeless persons, drug users, and sex workers.  When would Russia adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation?  What was the situation of women’s rights in the country and could the delegation comment on the recent decriminalization of domestic violence?

Responses by the Delegation

Responding to the question on the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant, the delegation said that this had been discussed and was not an option at the moment. 

All federal and state organs, including the National Human Rights Commission, had a developed a network in all regions which were mandated to set up the websites where complaints could be received.  On the question of why social and labour right complaints were on the rise, the delegation explained that as Russia traditionally focused on those rights, those issues would always be under the watch of various state organs. 

The main provisions of the non-discrimination and equality legislation were almost a word for word duplicate of the Covenant, thus there was no need for special regulations. 

Explaining the applicability of the Covenant in the courts, a delegate noted that Russia did not have a common law system but the Supreme Court decisions were of great significance; the use of the Covenant by the Supreme Court, including on matters of the right to non-discrimination in the labour market, were published and a reference to the Covenant was provided. 

It was the Prosecutor General who decided whether the activities of foreign or national non-governmental organizations were undesirable, on the basis of the threat they represented to the national security.  There were eleven such organizations in Russia, and the relevant information was published on the Internet and in the National Gazette by the Ministry of Justice.  The law did not run counter to the protection of human rights, insisted a delegate.

Many Russian companies and public institutions were involved in promoting corporate social responsibility; additionally, Russia supported the work of the Forum on Business and Human Rights including through annual voluntary contributions to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  It was also a member of the group of States that actively discussed such issues in all United Nations fora.

Russia was working on a system of State legislation on cooperation between indigenous peoples and extractive industries, and positive experiences had been seen in this regard. For example, the Sakhalin Energy Company was implementing one of the biggest energy projects, and had started consultations with indigenous peoples in the 1990s.  It had then launched a five-year plan that had facilitated the development of indigenous peoples in the Sakhalin Oblast.  When developing the plan, an assessment had been carried out together with indigenous peoples, and a conference had been held to explain the project plans as well as to sign an agreement with the indigenous peoples’ council. 

Amendments to the legislation on territories of traditional nature use had been proposed which would ensure 49-year contracts.  Amendments to the law on interactions between indigenous communities and extractive companies specifically targeted the absence of legal compensation for losses when lands were developed for economic activities, and aimed to define how the compensation would be paid.

On the compensatory payments to the Shor people, the delegation explained that a group had approached the local authorities in 2012 regarding the coal mining taking place near Kazas, and its negative impact on the health of people living nearby.  An agreement had been signed whereby the coal company had purchased the land at a very high price and had paid the compensation of 3.5 million Russian rubles to each home.  At the time, 57 people had been living in the area and now some were not satisfied with the amount of compensation and asked for more, whereas for others, the amount had been enough to purchase an apartment in the region. 

The resources for the improvement of economic, social and cultural rights were provided through taxes and budgetary provisions.  For example, a few years ago, the serious abuse of alcohol and tobacco had been addressed through a tax increase.

On discrimination, Article 12 of the Russian Constitution was in keeping with Article 2 of the Covenant; it prohibited all types of discrimination and provided an open list of the prohibited grounds of discrimination.  The Criminal Code in its Article 136 defined sanctions for the violation of equality of citizens. 

The list of dangerous jobs for women would be revised, said a delegate, adding that the purpose of the list was to ensure proper labour rights for women.

The Women’s Strategy was a five year strategy with measures that included education, assistance in the detection and elimination of diseases at an early stage, improvement of vitality, and a decrease in the wage differentials between women and men.  It also aimed at reducing violence against women and ensuring women’s rights in the public and private sectors.  Draft federal bill on the elimination and pre-empting of domestic violence was currently open for comments and it was hoped that it would soon pass though the Parliament.

Follow-up Questions and Answers

Committee Experts noted that the taxation system in Russia had been changed from a relatively progressive one to a flat rate of 13 per cent on all incomes regardless of the level, and asked for the reasons behind this retrogressive measure and how it was affecting the totality of the rights under the Covenant.  How would the new legislation on the territories of traditional nature use be compatible with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?  On the fight against corruption, what was the outcome of the measures implemented and how were the whistle-blowers protected?

It was commendable that Russia was one of the most multi-ethnic countries in the world, Experts said and asked how the Government ensured that all the ethnic groups were treated equally.  The flat income tax system had increased poverty, noted an Expert and asked if it would be modified, and which measures were planned to combat inequality.  What were the activities and work areas of the eleven “undesirable” non-governmental organizations?

Responding, the delegation said that there were three levels of taxes - the federal, regional, and municipal.  The flat tax was an income tax aimed at the citizens, and there had been attempts to revisit the scale.  The budget was dependent on other taxes, such as the capital gains tax.  Russia was doing its best to reduce the inequality gap.

The spending on defence represented 12 per cent of the State’s budget and 57 per cent went to the social and cultural affairs in 2016.

The draft law on the territories of traditional nature use had been accepted by the Government and would almost certainly be adopted with a view to recommendations from the previous cycle. 

On corruption, a ban on civil servants holding capital and bank accounts abroad had been issued, and a full control of the income of civil servants was in place.  The Government was mainstreaming anticorruption standards.

Questions by the Committee Experts

MARIA VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Committee Chairperson, opened the round of questions on labour rights and rights to social security by asking whether any measures were being planned to improve the unemployment in the country, and to protect the labour rights of informal sector workers, including the right to join a trade union and acquire a pension.

The Chairperson also asked about the intentions concerning the elimination of the list that banned women from certain jobs, and about the labour rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, including discrimination in the work place.

As of July 2017, the minimum wage corresponded to 66 per cent of the minimum subsistence level, noted the Chair and asked about the status of the bill which aimed to bring the minimum wage up to the subsistence level.  This was an important issue considering that five million people received salaries that were 1.5 times less than the subsistence level.  What was the situation concerning the “shadow salary”, whereby the employer did not pay taxes or contributions?

What measures were in place to decrease the gender pay gap related to vertical and horizontal segregation in the labour market?

Migrant workers faced many issues including discrimination in the work force, while  several migrant workers had died during the construction of the World Cup stadiums.  What measures were in place to ensure their health and safety?

Stateless persons eligible to a residence permit were not liable to a social welfare?  What measures were in place to ensure a universal social safety net?  Did the State party envisage the same age of retirement for men and women?

Responses by the Delegation

The minimum wage was 72 per cent of the subsistence minimum and the Parliament was currently reviewing a proposal to gradually bring it closer to the subsistence level.

The legislation was in place which protected the rights of legal migrant workers and ensured their access to social and medical insurance.  Labour migration was controlled by a quota system and the patent system, in line with the needs of the country.  Illegal migrant workers enjoyed the full protection in terms of health and labour rights, however their social welfare rights had to be improved.  The right to a pension was guaranteed to temporary citizens.

The delegation explained that an inter-departmental coordination mechanism had been established for the World Cup Championship preparations, with the mandate to, inter alia, problem-solve and adopt measures to counter violations.  A special department had monitored the compliance with labour rights and freedoms of labourers, including migrant workers.  In 2013, the authorities of the Krasnodar Oblast had noticed over 55 violations, which had subsequently been investigated and sanctioned, and the victims had received reparations. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the next series of questions, Committee Experts inquired about the minimum age for marriage, disaggregated data on institutionalized individuals, measures taken to address the situation of children living in the street, and the redress and reparations to victims of violence.

Experts were concerned that 13 to 18 per cent of the population lived below subsistence levels and in relative or absolute poverty; the numbers of people living in poverty were on the rise and there were important regional disparities.  What caused the rise in relative and absolute poverty and what was being done to address them?

With regards to the register of indigenous peoples, the delegation was asked if it would include information on their social status and the disaggregated data, and what the timeframe for its adoption was.

What measures were being undertaken to ensure access to temporary housing and affordable utilities and ensure the quality of housing provided to people?  Eviction of Roma and demolition of their settlements continued, noted the Experts and asked about steps taken to provide security of tenure and legalize Roma settlements.

What would be the concrete steps to implement a human rights based approach to the drug use policy, including by adopting the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS recommendations concerning the opium substitution therapy, needle and syringe distribution, and overdose programmes?

What measures were being contemplated to amend the legislation and administrative practice to ensure that asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants had access to health care?  Ukrainian citizens in Crimea who had not opted for Russian citizenship were allegedly excluded from medical insurance.  What measures were in place to ensure the access of transgender persons to affordable care including for sex reassignment surgery, and that they were treated with dignity?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that the number of citizens in the informal work force was estimated at fourteen million and that a programme to identify them had been launched through local committees in 2015, resulting in the reintegration of about five million people into the formal work force.  Regarding the gender-pay gap, women tended to work in the sectors of health, education and culture where wages were relatively low; as a result of the steps taken to address the situation, women's earnings had grown from on average 64 per cent of men’s wages in 2011 to 72 per cent in 2017.  The retirement age was 60 for men and 55 for women, but those thresholds were not binding, contrary to the rules in force in some countries; in general, men and women worked an extra decade after the official retirement age.  A serious discussion had been under way for the last several years to raise the general age of retirement. 

A family policy aimed at supporting families with children had been adopted, allowing the payment of allowances to women who did not work to enable them to pursue their studies and guaranteeing retirement entitlements.  The policy contained incentives for a third child.  The delegation acknowledged that this policy was hampered by the fact that about one million women of reproductive age were missing, as a result of the demographic collapse of the 1990s.

The delegation explained that the 70 cases of violation of labour rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons that a Committee Expert had inquired about, had not been linked to employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, but to the violation of labour rights of citizens, the majority of whom worked in the educational sphere.  Given that teaching profession was closely linked with children, who were under the special protection of the State, employees who demonstrated immoral conduct had been dismissed.  All the disputed cases had been taken to court which had decided that there had been no discrimination.

Article 212 of the Labour Code defined the restrictions to the right to strike, which involved two categories: type of employees, i.e. people working in the military and in law enforcement, and the specific situations, i.e. the state of emergency.

The legal age of marriage was eighteen.  The Family Code allowed the marriage at the age of sixteen, with the consent of local authorities, if there were objective reasons, such as pregnancy, children, and/or when the minor had started to work. 

The Russian Federation had decriminalized domestic violence and had defined it as an administrative violation; recidivism within a year carried criminal responsibility.  A special unit had been established to provide psychological assistance to the victims, who were also entitled to a compensation.

The State had made the resolution of the serious problem of unpaid wages one of its priorities; among other measures, a decision had been made to allow workers whose wages had not been paid for more than two weeks to cease work without loss of wages until they had been paid, and to fine the employers who were late with wage payments.  As a result, the number of delays had halved.

Drug addiction was considered a pathology.  Russia had launched a program to combat the use of narcotic drugs and provide the rehabilitation of drug addicts. Each region had institutions providing assistance to anyone who wished.  There was a complete prohibition of methadone and a limited use of morphine, and Russia did not consider that proposing substitute products was an adequate approach.

The strategy to prevent HIV/AIDS had been adopted, which contained a set of measures, including prophylactic measures, preventive measures, and awareness raising among key groups.  Some 32 million serological tests had been carried out last year, two million of which had involved foreign nationals, and over 22 billion annually was being allocated for the procurement of therapies.  Some 900,000 people were HIV-positive.  A single federal database had been created for people living with HIV/AIDS, while hepatitis C and tuberculosis were also being monitored. 

Access of all non-Russian citizens to healthcare was managed by a series of decrees.  Foreign workers and tourists must have medical insurance, the delegation said, while migrants and refugees received free emergency health care.

Following a referendum on 16 March 2014, Crimea and Sevastopol had become part of the Russian Federation, and the provisions of the Covenant fully applied to all citizens there; they enjoyed all rights without discrimination and could use all legal mechanisms.  Russia did not accept politically motivated resolutions on the situation of Crimea, stressed the delegation.  In the field of the enjoyment of cultural rights, the Ukrainian, Armenian and Greek languages, as well as the languages of the Tatars and the Bulgarian minorities, were taught either in separate schools or in special language classes, and it was up to the parents to choose their child's language of instruction. 

Steps had been undertaken to bolster the participation of Tatar communities and an organization had been established to ensure that the opinions of Crimean Tatars were heeded.  The issue of deported citizens and their return to Crimea was of great importance; steps taken included the integration of the economies of Sevastopol and Crimea into the national economy, removing infrastructural barriers, and creating inter-ethnic concord. 

The delegation said that only 0.3 per cent of the population lived in extreme poverty defined as 1.90 dollars per day; the majority of the Russian population was at the subsistence minimum, which was 42 per cent.  There were about 180,000 homeless persons in the country, and about half chose to go to institutions where they could receive assistance.  Falling oil prices caused price inflation and a drop in the ruble, said the delegation, noting that the fall in the standard of living had particularly affected pensioners, due to the non-indexation of pensions.

In terms of housing, the delegation noted that 90 per cent of homes were occupied by their owners.

Social integration of Roma was accorded a priority.  It was estimated that about 200,000 Roma lived in Russia; illegal construction of their housing was in violation of land use regulations as well as construction and sanitary laws, thus it had been decided to demolish their illegal settlements.  Measures had been taken to remedy this situation by, inter alia, providing land and utility subsidies.  One of the main difficulties in the integration of Roma was their low level of education compared to the rest of the population and lack motivation to complete their secondary education. 

Follow-up Questions and Answers

Committee Experts took the floor to ask additional questions, including on the legal safeguards against the broad powers of confiscation of land and destruction of houses, the policy on same sex marriage, the rights of the many citizens who depended on fishing for livelihood, and the plans to decriminalise sex work.

An Expert noted that over one million abortions were performed each year, putting Russia at the second place globally.  What was being done to include sexual education and reproductive health in the curricula?

The delegation was also asked about the provision of a quick, transparent and accessible procedure for legal gender recognition, gender stereotyping and what was being done to address it, and the implementation of the very restrictive rules on the use of morphine in case of patients with terminal diseases such as cancer.

The minimum age of marriage in some regions was 14, Experts noted and, while taking note of ethnic dimensions of this, said that this was a violation of international norms.  What was being done to impose a legal minimum age of marriage throughout the country?  What was being done to investigate and prosecute the punitive home-burning in Chechnya, and to rehabilitate victims?

In response to those questions, the delegation confirmed that the age of marriage was 18 and this had been established by the Family Code, which also contained exceptions.  Some regions derogated from this rule, allowing marriage as early as 14 or even 13 years old.  Russian law defined marriage as a free and consensual union of a man and a woman, the delegation said.  While same sex marriage was prohibited, it was possible to contractually formalize some links via civil legislation and agreements; inheritance for example, could be ensured by putting together a will.

Abortion was not the only method of preventing birth and legal contraceptives were being used.  Abortion was legal up until 12 weeks and allowed up to twenty two weeks if pregnancy was a result of a rape.  Services were provided free of charge.  The number of abortions had been steadily declining for several years and nearly one in four women used contraception.  Palliative medical care was provided to persons with terminal illnesses, including access to substances and constant monitoring by health institutions.  Investigations into home-burning in Chechnya had led to dismissals of cases.

One of the reasons for which children were living in the streets was that their families were in difficulty, so a system was in place to help the families; a hotline for children was also in place.  Over the last few years, over 57,000 street children had been identified, including those neglected by their parents and children who had lost their parents in tragic circumstances.  As for the fishing rights for the indigenous peoples in the Far North and Siberia, the law on hunting established the rules and rights and included provisions for hunting in a traditional manner.

Questions by the Committee Experts

MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Russia, turned his attention to education and asked what was being done to remedy the strong regional disparities in access to education, and to ensure access to education for children with disabilities and Roma children.

Mr. Windfuhr was highly concerned by the disappearance of some fifty minority and endangered languages, and was alarmed at the situation of the teaching of the Ukrainian and Tatar languages in Crimea.  Finally, he indicated that even though officially, there was no discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, the law repressing homosexual propaganda maintained prejudices.

Response by the Delegation

Russia had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and had amended its legislation to ensure access to education for children with disabilities.  An accessibility plan for schools had been adopted for old buildings while new facilities were required to comply with accessibility codes. 

On reproductive and sexual education, the delegation explained that anatomy, biology and the foundations for a safe life for children were included in the curriculum from the eleventh grade.  Additional courses were allowed, such as information day on HIV/AIDS.  There were also courses on sexually transmitted diseases, changes in adolescent bodies, and programmes for early identification of pregnancy.  There were no discriminatory provisions on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity in the legislation on education; all citizens were equal and had the right to enjoy education. 

As for the prohibition on the propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations among minors, the delegation noted that children in Russia enjoyed special protection, including in the matters of their spiritual development and family values.  Marriage was defined as a voluntary union between a man and a woman, and the online propaganda had a poisonous effect on children.  The law prohibiting this propaganda was in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments which obligated States to protect children from harm, and from the dissemination of information that was pornographic in nature, that promoted the use of drugs, or contained violence.

As for the minority and ethnic languages, the delegation stressed that the education was being provided in the 25 languages of the indigenous peoples, and that over 100,000 
publications had been published in those languages.  The Nomadic School Project was being implemented in six regions, and had given positive results - children could return to their parents after this education, without any interruption in their traditional way of life.  Additionally, a project on preschool children of the Arctic had also been launched. 

The delegation acknowledged the problematic nature of the integration of Roma and Sinti children, as parents were opposed to schooling from an early age.  This explained why many children entered school at the age of six with little or no Russian; moreover, their socialization was more difficult than that of children who had attended kindergarten.

Concluding Remarks

MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Russia, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue which demonstrated how engaged Russia was in ensuring the provisions of the Covenant, and where its priorities were. 

MARIA VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Committee Chairperson, said that the concluding observations were not an end in themselves, but served to provide a useful guidance to the improvement of economic, social and cultural rights on the ground. 

ALEXEY CHERKASOV, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, said that the goal was not so much to accede to an international instrument as to improve the situation of the citizens.  In this regard, the examples given by the Committee were pertinent and motivating.  Russia had chosen its own path, different from that of the rest of Europe, due to the immense territory populated by many ethnicities.  Certain values were not Russian, and it would not be possible or feasible to impose them.  Russia would study the concluding observations with great interest, said the Deputy Minister and thanked the Committee for raising some topics that were difficult to raise domestically.

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