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Council of Europe calls on European governments to ratify a Convention that will offer children better protection against sexual exploitation and abuse

Strasbourg, 13.05.2008 – The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse offers states a valuable new tool for preventing and combating every kind of violation of children’s fundamental rights. The Council of Europe has pledged to draw governments’ attention to the need to bring this Convention into force with all speed, and to offer support to the ratification process through the holding of regional conferences, the first of which will be held in Copenhagen (Denmark) on 21 and 22 May, in the presence of the host country’s Minister for Justice, Lene Espersen.

Since its adoption at the 28th Conference of European Ministers of Justice, held in Lanzarote (Spain) on 25 and 26 October 2007, the Convention has been signed by 28 of the Council of Europe’s 47 member states. It represents considerable progress in the effort to prevent sexual offences against children, to prosecute perpetrators, to protect victims and to engage in international co-operation.

For the first time, there is now an international treaty providing for criminal penalties for those who sexually abuse children, who tend to be known to their victims and whose offences are among the most damaging to children.

Under the Convention certain kinds of conduct will become criminal offences, such as sexual activity with a child below the age of consent, prostitution and child pornography. With the use of new technologies for child abuse giving cause for increasing concern, grooming (the manipulation of children by adults on line for sexual purposes) is one of the new offences.

The Convention also recommends the adoption of victim support programmes and the setting up of telephone and Internet helplines for children.

The Council of Europe has decided to give priority to the promotion of children’s rights and the protection of children from violence, through its “Building a Europe for and with children” (2006-2008) programme. A game entitled “Wild Web Woods”, available in 14 languages, has been launched to teach children how to surf the Internet safely.

The conference, open to the press, will begin at 10.00 a.m. on Wednesday 21 May (Axelborg conference Centre).

For more information, see www.coe.int/childprotection.