Back 13th meeting of the Network of Contact Parliamentarians to stop sexual violence against children

Strasbourg , 

Theme: Sexual abuse of children by their peers

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Dear parliamentarians,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come back to you to report on the most recent progress made in the ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children.

• The Lanzarote Convention is now binding to 26 Council of Europe Member States. Lithuania was the latest to ratify and the number of ratifications is expected to grow further in 2013. We are also confident that the first non-European country to have requested to accede to the Convention, Morocco, will sign and ratify in the near future.

• The One in Five Campaign has become the catalyst for hundreds of initiatives by parliaments, governments and cities and by prominent politicians, journalists, human rights advocates, ombudspersons, NGOs, film directors and singers.

• Just recently, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities launched a new online tool enabling local and regional authorities to share their initiatives to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. I invite you all to inform your national local and regional authorities about this initiative.

• ONE in FIVE Campaigns are now running in 17 countries and several new launches are being planned. Campaign Partners have just recently provided responses to help us to assess their impact and efforts. These responses show the richness of initiatives and the creativity and commitment from people across Europe and beyond.

• The Audiovisual documentary for public television "Keep me safe" will shortly be complemented by a Web documentary, both of which aim at sharing good practices on prevention and protection.

• The song "Stop the silence" donated to the Campaign by Serbian singer Alexandra Kovac has now been translated into English, Italian and French and will soon be developed into a music video for wide broadcasting, possibly with the help of MTV.

• The European Partial Agreement on Sports will discuss the prevention of sexual violence against children at a conference in October. The Campaign and the Council of Europe standards will also be presented at a major event in Dublin bringing together hundreds of European professionals in the field of prevention of child abuse and neglect.

• Co-operation with UNICEF will be further strengthened thanks to the organisation of a workshop bringing together staff from UNICEF and Council of Europe country offices. The objective is to identify concrete activities to be carried out at national level to support the campaign in a number of countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have all been shaken by scandals reported in the media revealing the reality of children who are victims of abuse by a family member, a teacher, a sports trainer, a priest or a friend.

Governments have identified numerous measures that would allow us to dramatically reduce the number of victims. But often only a handful of them have actually been implemented. This is certainly the case for the topic you have chosen for this meeting of your network.

For many years, the focus of the international community in the area of sexual violence was on sexual exploitation of children. The issue of sexual abuse within the circle of trust, including peers, was hardly mentioned. This has prompted the Lanzarote Committee, which is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Convention, to focus its first round of questions to State Parties on this very issue.

In May the Committee is expected to adopt two questionnaires: one of a general nature and another on the theme of sexual abuse within the circle of trust. The replies to these questionnaires will allow us to identify gaps and make constructive and well-focused progress.

Unfortunately, prevention and protection measures are too often neglected or ignored, in particular the need to develop sexuality education.

In Europe today sex education often does not address the full picture of respect and human dignity, social relations and love. It is often limited to learning about health issues and the prevention of early pregnancy. In reality today's children learn about sex and sex education on the internet, by seeing hard core pornography. For this very reason, a training course for teacher trainers on sexual education is being developed by our Pestalozzi Programme.

The ultimate goal of this course is to provide a positive impact on the well-being of children and young people by helping them to build healthy emotional relationships. Children must understanding how to say no, and how to get "a yes". They must understand what rape is, what violence is and learn about equality and gender respect.

I am convinced that education and other preventive measures play a key role in reducing the number of child victims and children exhibiting harmful behaviour. This is certainly one of the reasons why the Lanzarote Convention requires States to ensure that children, during primary and secondary education, receive information adapted to their level of understanding.

Fighting sexual abuse of children by peers also requires special safeguards and care.

Children receive pervasive, confusing and conflicting messages about sexuality and gender. This may contribute to creating and sustaining vulnerability to coercion, abuse and exploitation. Effective sexuality education is therefore essential.

Governments have the legal obligation to protect all children, be they victims or offenders. Legal, political and administrative measures should be established and effectively implemented to fight their particular exposure to all forms of abuse. Policy makers should also be reminded that good programmes for young sexual offenders will reduce the number of future victims.

I also wish to draw your attention to the Council of Europe Guidelines on
Child-friendly Justice from 2010, which make explicit reference to the importance of protection and assistance. This unique instrument is leading to changes in the justice systems in many continents and now exists in more than 20 languages.
I encourage your network to push for dissemination and use at national level.

Let me conclude by repeating that as Parliamentarians you are in a key position to give a voice to children, to their parents and to professionals. You are also in a position to shape the normative framework and to remind governments of their obligations.

Thank you for your attention.