A far-right Kremlin lawmaker has called for about 45,000 female prisoners in Russia to be released on “vacation” to get pregnant in a bizarre attempt to reverse the country’s falling birth rate.
Valery Seleznev, a deputy of 8th State Duma, said in a recent interview that female prisoners who are able to bear children should be temporarily freed in order to seek out partners and conceive a child – a solution he said could be essential to bolstering Russia’s population amid the war in Ukraine.
“The state can offer them a kind of deal in which a woman’s prison sentence time is interrupted and if she gives birth during such ‘leave’, the rest of the prison time is canceled,” Seleznev – who is affiliated with the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LPDR) – told mk.ru last week.
There are currently up to 45,000 women in Russia’s prisons, most of whom are serving time for minor infractions, Seleznev claimed.
“We gave the opportunity to men, leaving prison early, to fight against the terrible enemy in the Northern Military District [military wing] based on the same principle of the highest atonement,” he told the outlet, referring to Russia’s scheme that allowed male prisoners to volunteer for military service in Ukraine in exchange for release.
“Why do we deprive women of the opportunity to atone? We don’t need women to give their lives to [the war],” Seleznev continued.
“But we urgently need to solve the main problem of the future of the country, which… risks sliding into a demographic hole that threatens its existence. And a woman can and should not give her own life, but give a new one to her children.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin regularly refers to Russia’s declining population as one of the country’s primary obstacles.
The nation is home to an estimated 144.2 million people in 2023 – a drop from 148.5 million in 1991.
According to the United Nations, a worst-case scenario could see the country’s population fall to 83 million over the next two decades, Newsweek reported.
Earlier this year, Russia reported its lowest birth rate since World War II, Novaya Gazeta reported.
The country is also under pressure amid the estimated thousands of casualties in Ukraine, as well as the number of Russians fleeing the country to avoid conscription and other fallout from the conflict.
“The highest goal and destiny of a woman is to create a family and give birth to children,” Seleznev insisted to mk.ru – adding that former prisoners could make ideal mothers for the country’s next generation.
“I think that many women, having gone on such a ‘vacation’ to freedom, in an effort to fulfill the very ‘task’ of the vacation received, will not only give birth to children, but will also try to create a strong family,” he said.
“Having learned the complexities of life, they can become wonderful mothers and faithful wives for their men. And if these women start families, perhaps with veterans and disabled people of the Northern Military District [wing of the military], this will be the very atonement worthy of early forgiveness.”
Human Rights council member and journalist Eva Merkacheva quickly slammed Seleznev’s idea as “wild.”
“This initiative of the deputy is intended to ensure that women actually find fleeting life partners,” she told mk.ru.
“What else can you do on prison ‘vacation’? Quickly meet and sleep. In my opinion, this will create a lot of problems for the [federal prison] system and for society as a whole,” she continued.
‘If the deputy misspoke and we are not talking about ‘vacation,’ but about generally amnestying women who will start a family in freedom, this initiative is good,” Merkacheva added.
“But this should not be forced, and bearing children should not be her responsibility. The state can offer women credit.”
Seleznev’s bizarre solution also comes after fellow State Duma member Sultan Khamzaev earlier this month proposed that the government should offer payments to women as an incentive to prevent abortions, Newsweek noted.
On November 12, Patriarch Kirill – the head of the Russian Orthodox Church – proposed a complete nationwide ban on “encouraging” women to terminate pregnancies, citing the population decline as a serious factor, the outlet added.
“Russia really does have a demographic problem,” Kirill said.
Prior to his stance on the female prisoners, Seleznev made international headlines when his son, Roman Seleznev, was arrested and sentenced to 27 years behind bars in the US for cybercrimes, rbc.ru reported at the time.
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