Saeima deems smoking in the presence of a child as abuse


Physical abuse is the intentional application of force to a child that threatens the health or life of the child or the intentional subjection of a child to a harmful environment, including tobacco smoke. This is set forth in the amendments to the Protection of the Rights of the Child Law, which the Saeima adopted in the third and final reading on Thursday, 30 May. This provision protects a child’s right to grow up in a smoke-free environment.

“Hopefully, the amendments to the Law will promote awareness about the harm caused by smoking and will make people act more responsibly regarding children's health. I would like to emphasise that these amendments do not mean that a child will automatically be removed from a family in which one or both parents are smokers, as has incorrectly been reported by the media on several occasions,” said Ināra Mūrniece, Chairperson of the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee, which was responsible for the Draft Law.

The amendments to the Law also broaden the definition of emotional abuse by including insult to the dignity of a child and exertion of psychological influence over a child by abusing a relative of the child in his/her presence.

In order to reinforce a child’s right to grow up in a family environment, the amendments envisage that children left without parental care shall preferably be granted the opportunity of living with a guardian or foster family and that a child shall be placed in out-of-family care only while such an opportunity is not available. As regards care for children under guardianship, the new provisions set forth that the parents have an obligation to pay child support payments to the guardian, and if they fail to fulfil this obligation, the guardian has the right to file a claim in a court. 

The amendments also set forth the cases in which parents are exempted from the obligation to pay for out-of-family care of a child, for example, if the child was conceived during a sexual offense against the woman.

Furthermore, the amendments introduce an obligation for parents or caregivers of a child under the age of 7 to ensure that the child is looked after during their absence. The amendments also supply a definition of an entity entitled to look after a child, and they establish the basic principles of operation for such an entity; namely the entity looking after a child shall ensure that the environment in which this service is provided is appropriate for a child and does not endanger the child's safety, life, health, virtue or well-rounded development.

The list of persons who must have specific knowledge about children’s rights is also introduced. As before, this list contains specialists dealing with cases pertaining to protection of children’s rights; however, it is supplemented with representatives of other professions that work with children on a daily basis and in a timely manner can identify and prevent violation of the rights of a child, such as abuse.

In order to protect the rights of a child who has been abused and is undergoing social rehabilitation, the head of the social rehabilitation institution shall henceforth have the right to search the child and check correspondence or packages addressed to the child in order to protect the child from threats expressed by the abuser.

Furthermore, it is planned to establish a minors’ support information system containing information from state and municipal institutions, as well as health-care providers, about minors in need of support and cases requiring preventive measures to protect a child.

The authors of the Draft Law point out that these amendments will facilitate adherence to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially in regard to socially vulnerable and abused children.

Saeima Press Service

Ceturtdien, 22.februārī
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