Maryia Tarasenka from Homel is a housewife. Her husband is the breadwinner. The money he earns is enough for them. The woman is the official owner of their two-room apartment.
In the middle of January, Maryia learned from the officials that for her, as a social parasite, the utilities bill for her apartment had gone up on January 1. According to the relevant decree, there no mitigating circumstances to ease the woman's situation. From the point of view of the Belarusian government, Maryia is a model social parasite.
The Homel citizen does not agree with the idea that she is not taking part in financing state expenditures. She wants to be excluded from the "database of social parasites" by a court decision.
Increased water bill. What's next?
By personal example, the woman wants to show others that you need to protect your rights.
“Getting excluded from the database of social parasites” is not the only goal,” Maryia told Euroradio. “I want to inspire people who receive “letters of happiness." So that they wouldn't get depressed, don't feel inferior. People can demand protection of their rights.
I'm scared about the future. This year has seen the water and heating tariffs increase. What kind of notification from the authorities as a non-working person can I receive later? Will they forbid me to go out? Will you need to pay to go to the park? There's no end in sight."
Decree number 3 put her into depression
For about ten years Maryia Tarasenka worked at sewing enterprises. Then the family decided that the husband would earn their living. But in mid-January, the woman received a call from the central housing department of Homel and was informed that starting from January 1, 2019, the price of hot water for unemployed apartment owners would rise.
Maryia told Euroradio that the officials had had questions about her "parasitism" before.
“It all started with Decree number 3, which affected me in December 2016,” said Maryia Tarasenka. “I received a notification that I was not participating in financing government spending. I was supposed to pay either tribute or rent, but for some reason it was called a tax. I was outraged, but I could not do anything. I was depressed."
After Alyaksandr Lukashenka sent the decree for review, officials seemed to have forgotten about Maryia. But not for long. This year, she was invited to explain why she was "not involved in the economy." But the family decided that they should not explain anything to anyone.
“At the request of the local administration, I received a call from the house management office,” the woman continues. “As the owner of the apartment, I am threatened with a 4-5-fold increase in payment for hot water. All because I'm not employed."
A woman calls Decree number 3 an absurdity that goes beyond understanding.
Any living person is involved in the economy
To protect her rights, a resident of Homel appealed to the regional branch of the REP Trade Union. Her complaints about the rights violations have already been sent to the Homel Regional Executive Committee and the local administration.
Andrei Strizhak, a member of the REP Trade Union Council, calls the phrase “not involved in the economy” strange, and in the case of Maryia Tarasenka, he said, there are chances for a successful result.
“Any living person is involved in the economy,” said Andrey Strizhak. “Using public transport and communication, shopping in stores is direct involvement in the economy. Even if a person is dependent on somebody else to support them. Therefore, the phrase “not involved in the economy" is economically illiterate. And this is well demonstrated by the level of our officials who made the decree."
In the case of Maryia Tarasenka, the documents will be collected confirming that the woman lives in Belarus and takes part in the economy.
“Our goal is more strategic,” adds a Homel human rights activist. “We’ll process the algorithm, according to which every person who finds himself in the “base of social parasites” could defend his rights. Usually, when a serious trial begins, the government frees people from the stigma they gave them earlier."
Belarusian human rights defenders will begin the process of Maryia Tarasenka's exclusion from the “database of parasites” through court hearings. If this does not help, the lawyers of the REP Trade Union and Viasna Human Rights Center will turn to the UN Human Rights Committee.
Decree No. 3 “On the Prevention of Social Dependency” was signed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka on April 2, 2015. The document obliged a citizen of Belarus who permanently resides in the country, but does not have official income, to pay a fee to finance government spending. At the same time, the state, based on its data, recorded a person as social parasite automatically. A person who disagrees with the situation has to prove that they are not a "parasite."
The decree caused outrage in society and led to street protests in the spring of 2017. The authorities immediately suspended the decree in order to finalize it. The updated document titled "On Promoting Employment" took effect on January 1, 2019. According to it, Belarusians who do not have official employment must pay the full cost of utilities.
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