On August 31, an online outlet Zneoba.ge published a post on its Facebook page regarding the Parliament-adopted Code on the Rights of the Child. The outlet condemns the Code as the document that makes children confront God and destructs families. It also slams the UN for its role in developing the code, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Dimitri Lortkipanidze, head of the Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Center, also criticized the Code in his Facebook post published on September 1. He focused on the issue of separating children from parents and the activities carried out by social workers. Lortkipanidze’s post was shared by pro-Kremlin outlet News Front Georgia.
Pro-Russian and antiliberal actors have long been manipulating with the Code on the Rights of the Child; these manipulations are consistent with news content spread by Russian-language media outlets on this issue. A number of messages are being spread from time to time, among them “Juvenile fascism law destructs families,” “a parent has no right to put a child in the corner,” “the Code envisages removal of children from poor families,” “parents will not be able to raise their kids in accordance with their religion,” “the Code encourages use of drugs and alcohol,” etc.
Manipulative interpretation of separate articles of the Code emerged immediately after the work over the draft code began. This issue is a component of the agenda promoted by antiliberal and pro-Russian groups. Myth Detector offers a review about what the Code actually envisages.
What does the Code on the Rights of the Child imply?
According to the Code, its purpose is to ensure the welfare of the child, to strengthen and support families, thus creating necessary guarantees for raising children in the family environment. The Code notes that a child should be raised in the harmonious environment, where no forms of violence, including physical punishment and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment will be used. The document also notes that children should be given access to justice, inclusive education and personal development.
The Parliament of Georgia approved the Code on the Rights of the Child on September 20, 2019 and it entered into force from September 1, 2020.
- According to the Code on the Rights of the Child, the dignity of the child shall be inviolable
Zneoba.ge misinterprets article 4 of the Code, claiming that under the article, parents will no longer be able to use even lighter methods of punishment such as putting a child in the corner. In fact, the Code reads that “the torture of the child, the inhumane or degrading treatment of the child, or the exercise of inhumane or degrading punishment against the child, shall be inadmissible.”
- Protection of the best interests of the child is the fundamental right and freedom of the child
According to article 5 of the Code, “in determining the best interests of the child, the right of the personal development of the child in the family environment, the social and cultural characteristics of the child, the opportunity of the child to exercise rights and freedoms individually, and the opinions of the child, shall be taken into account.”
Zneoba.ge manipulatively claims that if a parent tells a child that homosexuality is a sin and decides to raise a child based on this principle, it will not be consistent with the best interests of the child and the child may be taken away from a parent.
First of all, article 16 clarifies that “a parent shall have the right to raise a child in accordance with his/her moral and religious opinions,” whereas separation of children from parents is an extreme measure that should be used only if other light measures yielded no results. However, it should be noted that this measure should be used not when a parent raises a child in accordance with his/her religious opinions, but when a child’s life or health is endangered.
Article 26 reads that “a child may not be separated from his/her parent because the parent does not have adequate living conditions or financial resources, except when the carrying out of family support measures would not have a desirable effect or there are reasonable grounds to believe that the carrying out of such measures would not have a desirable effect.”
“Where the life, health or safety of the child is under immediate and direct threat, a social worker shall be authorized to make an immediate decision on the separation of the child from his/her parent and shall submit a relevant motion to a court to obtain consent within 24 hours.”
- According to the Code, the State shall facilitate the development and dissemination of guidelines for protecting the child from harmful information and materials
The media outlet also manipulates with article 9 involving the right of the child to private space. The Code reads that “the unlawful restriction of private and family life, including unreasonable and unlawful involvement in the private space, family life or personal correspondence of the child, shall be inadmissible.”
Blaming online games for numerous suicides among teens, the media outlet claims that this article will lead to deplorable consequences. However, the Code clarifies in its article 15 that the State shall ensure the protection of the child from harmful information and materials.
Further, article 66 reads that “an internet service provider (ISP) is obliged to develop mechanisms enabling the blocking of the access of a child to information hazardous to the child, upon the request of a user.” Thus, a parent will be able to control what type of information a teenager is receiving from the Internet.
- Dimitri Lortkipanidze’s post is half-truth
In a Facebook post published on September 1, Dimitri Lortkipanidze touched upon the article of the Code on the Rights of the Child concerning the issue of separation of a child from a parent. Lortkipanidze claims that a judge considers the decision made by a social worker unilaterally, without an oral hearing and makes a decision on separating a child from a parent. Lortkipanidze slams this practice as discrimination of a family on social grounds, noting that giving the family only one day for taking counter measures is incorrect. Lortkipanidze also notes that if violence is the reason for separation, it should not be done without police involvement.
In fact, article 26 of the Code reads that a child may not be separated from his/her parent because the parent does not have adequate financial resources, as well as against his/her will. The instruction for the Interior Ministry employees regarding child protection referral procedures specifies that where the life and health of the child is under immediate and direct threat and where it is clear that use of less strict measures within 24 hours will not ensure the protection of the child’s life and health, a social worker is authorized to submit a relevant motion to a court to obtain consent within 24 hours. However, according to the Code on the Rights of the Child, the motion of the social worker shall include necessary justification for the immediate separation of the child from his/her parent. A police officer shall participate in the assessment of the threat, whose positive or negative opinion shall be recorded in the relevant protocol. In addition, a decision on the separation of the child from his/her parent shall be subject to a periodic review.
Myths about the Code on the Rights of the Child
Pro-Russian and antiliberal groups have long been manipulating with the Code on the Rights of the Child. In 2018-2020, various myths were spread by Georgian tabloid Asaval-Dasavali, online outlet Georgia and World, Director of Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Center, Dimitri Lortkipanidze, online outlet Alt-Info and leader of Georgian Idea movement, Levan Chachua.
Below are Myth Detector’s earlier publications on the same topic:
- Manipulation as if the Code on the Rights of the Child Bans Parents from Bringing up Children in Religious Faith
- Do Child Rights’ Code and UNICEF Encourage Drug and Alcohol Use among Teens?
- 5 Myths about the Code on Rights of the Child
- Head of Primakov Center Spreads Disinformation about UNICEF
- Myths by Georgia and World about Children’s Code and Juvenile Justice
Prepared by Neni Marsagishvili and Maiko Ratiani
Myth Detector Lab