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10 Jul, 2007 02:32

Population decline in Russia - maternity rights at fault?

Latest Russian statistics show the population has fallen by about 150,000 since the beginning of the year, and despite efforts by the Government, the birth rate is not rising to the extent they would like.

One of the reasons could be that women who become pregnant are facing discrimination in the workplace. 

As the anatomy textbooks claim and the ultrasound scanning proves, a six-month foetus is already fully formed and resembles a human being. A mother is able to feel the baby move and even see the shape of a foot as the baby turns and kicks. 

Yulia Kuzina can hardly remember those details as that stage of her pregnancy was a very difficult time for her and her future baby. 

After having worked at a Moscow travel agency for two years, she was fired with no explanation. She insists it was simply because she got pregnant.

“At first I was furious. I thought I should take vengeance on them for their wrongdoings. They just can't remain unpunished. But I failed to,” said Yulia Kuzina, a mother.

Under Russian law, the dismissal of a woman for being pregnant is punishable by a fine of up to $US 30,000, or by community service of up to 180 hours.

“A future mother is responsible for bringing up a new citizen of the country. It is a kind of a job, which has to be paid for by the state, and it must be a decent payment. The state must also offer protection,” claims Dmitry Rode, a lawyer.

The girl Yulia gave birth to is already 11 months old, but so far her mother has not obtained justice – there has been no compensation and no guarantee that she will be re-instated.

“We have the laws, but they didn't protect me in my case. In the future I'll simply be more particular about the company I work with and my employer,” adds Yulia Kuzina.

The law as it stands protects women’s rights by forbidding employers to sack pregnant women. But the same law means employers are less keen to employ women who may get pregnant as they will have to pay for maternity leave.

According to the Government figures, in the first six months of this year Russia's population fell by about 150,000. If Russia wants women to have more children and improve the birth rate, then it needs to protect their maternity rights as well as encourage women to overcome their reluctance of taking legal action.