New law on alternative civilian service comes into effect on July 1st, 2016

Alternative to military service

The world knows two basic models of alternative service. The first involves sig­ning an employment contract between the `alternative servant` and the organization, with all relations between them follo­wing the employment and labour law. Russia, Ukraine and Moldova use this model.  Belarus uses the second model, whereby young men choosing an alternative civilian service, according to their legal status, are almost conscripts, as in Austria.

Recently, the Council of Ministers issued a list of works for those choo­sing alternative civilian service. Apart from traditional activities, like wa­shing floors in hospitals, or taking care of seriously ill and disabled people, a conscript may be involved in growing or harvesting vegetables, berries or mushrooms, mowing grass, or caring for cattle.

The monthly financial allowance is 150 percent of the maximum va­lue of the minimum living wage for the last two quarters (currently, per capita,169.94 Roubles). Next year, the financial allowance will increase by 20 percent, and, by 2018, by 40 percent.

You cannot? Prove it!

Young people wishing to avoid military service due to religious beliefs can now serve in civilian posts instead, as originally enshrined in the Belarusian Constitution, and now detailed in a corresponding law. Of course, some people may cite religious beliefs falsely, to avoid military ser­vice, so any statement must be proven. Civilian service is to last three years (twice the time required of regular military conscripts) while those with higher education must give two years of service.

A list of organizations where alternative civilian service may be performed is being drawn up by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security: nursing facilities, hospices, residential care homes, housing and communal enterprises, agriculture and forestry (all places in need of labour and where earnings tend to be low).

The Minister of Defence of the Republic of Belarus, Andrei Ravkov, has a negative attitude towards offering alternative civilian service, believing the option is completely separate from the Armed Forces, rather falling under the mandate of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.

A hundred men all over the country

Those drafting the law have come under criticism, with opponents believing that other reasons are valid for alternative service, such as pacifism and other philosophies beyond ‘religious faith’. The Head of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Olga Likhtarovich, tells us, “We must proceed from the fact that it shouldn’t be more attractive to undertake alternative civilian service than military service. ­Otherwise, we’ll face too many unfounded appeals from citizens wishing to simplify life.”

Those undertaking alternative civilian service should be in the minority, notes the Chairman of the Standing Commission on Labour and Social Affairs of the House of Representatives, Vladimir Vasilenko. He states that, each year, no more than a hundred people are likely to undertake alternative civilian service countrywide. 
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