Russians Protest Adoption Ban
An extraordinary event took place in Moscow today as thousands of Russians citizens came out to protest the new law barring Americans from adopting Russian children:
MOSCOW — Thousands of Russians marched on Sunday in condemnation of the Russian Parliament’s move to ban the adoption of Russian children by American families, an event dubbed a “March Against Scoundrels,” where participants chanted, “Take your hands off children,” and carried posters showing the faces of lawmakers stamped with the word “Shame.”
Marchers flooded tree-lined boulevards for many blocks on a bitterly cold day. The police estimated the turnout for the march, which was sanctioned by city authorities, at 9,500; a group of activists who made a count told Interfax that there were about 24,000 participants.
The sight gags and clever slogans of last year’s antigovernment rallies were absent Sunday, and many participants had emotional answers for why they took part in the march. Many questioned the moral principles of a ban on adoptions by Americans in a country with so many children in foster care or orphanages.
“Even I can’t afford to adopt, and I’m supposedly middle class,” said Yekaterina Komissarova, 31, adding that perhaps the issue angered her so deeply because she was the mother of two children.
Another marcher, Tamara Nikolayeva, 62, raised her voice, nearly shouting, as she accused Russian leaders of using orphans as pawns.
“They have decided to settle a score by using children, and it’s shameful,” Ms. Nikolayeva said, as her friends gathered around, nodding their encouragement. “O.K., maybe at some point, it will be better not to give our children away; we should take care of them ourselves. But first you have to make life better for them here. Give them a chance to study. Give them a chance to get medical treatment.”
The adoption ban has underlined a growing division in Russian society, as the government has embraced conservative rhetoric tailored to voters in the heartland, and turned away from prosperous city-dwellers who have mobilized over the Internet. State-controlled television has regaled Russians with reports of American parents who abuse or neglect Russian children, and a top official derided the marchers as “child sellers.”
“I am especially surprised to see people gather at such a large action in support of American business — because for them, our children, Russian children, are factually, let’s put it this way, an object of trade,” said Yekaterina Lakhova, the United Russia lawmaker who sponsored the ban, in an interview with Kommersant FM radio station shortly after Sunday’s march began.
“Economically developed countries — and we do not consider ourselves a third-world country, we are in the top 20 — do not give up their children to foreign adoption as much as we do,” she said. “Excuse me, but in the past years, we have given the United States a small city with a population of up to 100,000, that is how many children we have given up to foreign adoptions.”
This isn’t an unfair point and, perhaps at some level it would be best for Russian children to be adopted by Russian adults and raised in their own country. However, reason a multitude of reasons that seem to be related both to the state of the economy in Russia as well as what seem to be very traditional views about the family, adoption is not nearly as common in Russia as it is in the West. Until that changes, it seems fairly clear that the best thing for these hundreds of thousands of children in Russian orphanages would be for them to be placed with families that will give them a stable, loving home, regardless of whether that home is in Russia, elsewhere in Europe, or the United States.
As I’ve noted before, this adoption ban is nothing new. Similar bans have been passed numerous times over the past twenty years or so, only to be lifted after what was usually a very short period of time. Just as on those occasions, the ban that recently passed the Russian Duma had nothing to do with legitimate complaints about how Russian children who have been adopted by Americans are faring. Indeed, the vast majority of the Russian children who have come to America via adoptions like this are doing just fine notwithstanding the handful of unfortunate cases where something went wrong. This time, the primary motivation behind the ban was a piece of legislation passed by Congress targeting a few Russian companies allegedly involved in human rights violations. This suggests, quite obviously, that the adoption ban is really nothing more than a bargaining chip in future negotiations with the United States, as it has been in the past. Odds are, then, that the ban will be lifted at some point.
Nonetheless, it is extraordinary to see Russians rising up to protest against this idiotic law. As with the protests over the treatment of the anti-government punk rock band Pussy Riot, it would appear that the Russian citizenry isn’t quite as accepting of Putin’s soft tyranny as he would prefer. What this means for the future of Russia only time will tell, but it will be interesting to watch.