Bills approved by the Russian State Duma include increasing sentences to 20 years for the rape of children – and also harsher measures for the distributors of child pornography.
The lower chamber of the Russian parliament has passed the new law, proposed by President Medvedev, in the third reading. It now has to be ratified by the upper chamber – the Council of Federation – and signed by the president.
Pavel Krasheninnikov, head of the State Duma Committee for Civil, Criminal, Arbitration and Remedial Legislation, provided his comments on the bills to ITAR-TASS:
“An important supplement, to which we have agreed, is the introduction of job restrictions [for such criminals] in certain professions.
”That is, under certain articles, courts would be able to prohibit taking up such posts or working in certain professions [suggesting contact with children] for a period of up to 20 years,” he added.
The minimum punishment for the distribution of child pornography in the new law is set between two and eight years.
The principal novelty of the presidential initiative to the criminal legislation, ITAR-TASS notes, is the introduction of a differentiated punishment, which would depend on the age of the abused children: the younger they are – the longer the imprisonment for pedophiles.
But some say this will not spare youngsters from exploitation online.
Many of the underage pornography websites are not secret. It takes just a few minutes of casual browsing on one of Russia's popular social networks to come across pictures of naked children.
“Nothing is being done. If I don't know that certain security measures are being taken, I will really consider where I am going to live,” Ksenia, a campaigner, told RT.
Herself a mother of a young child, Ksenia was so shocked by the easy availability of underage pornography that she started a public campaign. By now, the young woman has collected hundreds of pages of evidence.
Since many Russian social networks have no age restrictions, she claims that not only are children exposed to illegal pornography, but these websites are a hub for pedophiles.
Currently, ten times fewer child abusers are convicted in Russia than in the US, and the prison terms are shorter on average.
Yet, the new legislation that will ratchet up the punishments for child abuse has no specific provisions for internet crime.
“The situation in the country is critical. Our government cannot protect its own people,” says Aleksandr Khinshtein, a Duma Deputy.
But internet specialists say the Government can only combat child pornography in tandem with the internet providers themselves.
“No website that has user-generated content is able to moderate all of it. What a respectable site does is take the users' complaints seriously to remove the undesirable content. If they fail do so, they should suffer at the hands of the law,” Elena Kolmanovskaya, Editor-in-chief at Yandex.ru, explained.
While discussions proceed about the most effective way of stopping sex offenders, at the moment child pornography continues to be freely accessible, and pedophiles can still easily contact their victims.