Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children can happen online, on a phone, on the streets or through a webcam, at home or at school. It can cause lifelong damage to the child’s physical and mental health. To help prevent these crimes, prosecute the perpetrators and protect the victims, the Council of Europe has set up in 2015 the European Day for the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse marked on the 18th of November.
On the occasion of the day, Council of Europe Secretary General called on European states to step up providing assistance to survivors: “There can be no trivial cases - any harm caused by the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child is significant and must be addressed.”
Ensuring that survivors receive support and that appropriate recovery and rehabilitation services are made available and easily accessible to all those who require it is of vital importance for parliamentarians, stressed the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Pedro Agramunt .
Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights, called for better access to justice for children: “Sexual abuse is often invisible, because it is not reported, because there is a lack of regular and independent monitoring of the situation of institutionalized children, and a lack of effective complaint mechanisms,” he said.
President of the European Court of Human Rights Guido Raimondi reminded about the extensive experience of the Court in this area: “The protection of children against ill-treatment constitutes a core obligation intrinsic to a State’s duties, particularly with regard to primary education,” he said. “We have developed a considerable body of case law, which often leads to a finding that the competent authorities failed to exhaust all the possibilities available to them for establishing the circumstances in which such acts took place, or to take into consideration the special vulnerability of victims, particularly when sexual abuse occurs within the family.”
Continuing the fight against sexual abuse is crucial, said Gudrun Mosler-Toernstroem, the President of the Congress for Regional and Local Authorities. “Our regional and local authorities are the first witnesses of these crimes, and they are responsible for protecting children living inside their communities. “
Jürgen Ligi, Chair of the Committee of Ministers and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, encouraged the Council of Europe member States who have not yet ratified the Lanzarote Convention criminalising all forms of sexual abuse against children, to do so, and welcomed the initiatives organised in the framework of the European Day around Europe.
Ambassador Tomáš Boček, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees , Claude Janizzi, Chair of the Lanzarote Committee , as well as Anna Rurka, President of the Conference of the INGOs of the Council of Europe and Ina Verzivolli, Chair of the Ad hoc Committee for the Rights of the Child also made statements on the occasion of the European Day.