On the occasion of the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse 2016, Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), made the following statement:
“The Parliamentary Assembly has always defended the human rights of the most vulnerable, including children of any age.
Protecting children from harm is of the utmost importance – all violations of children’s rights must end in order for them to live a dignified life in a supportive environment. Research unfortunately suggests that one in five children will be affected by sexual violence, and this reminds us that there is much work yet to be done.
The Council of Europe has taken many steps to fight sexual violence against children, from the elaboration and adoption of the Lanzarote Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, to the ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children – an awareness initiative strongly supported by our Assembly over the last six years.
Too often, the issue of child sexual abuse is obscured by taboos and silence. Through initiatives such as the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, we can continue our efforts to encourage an open dialogue to help prevent abuse, stop it early on, and fight the stigmatisation of victims.
On the occasion of that European Day, which falls on the same days as the first ever Global Survivors’ Forum in Strasbourg at the Council of Europe, I would like to draw special attention to the victims and survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation. We must remember that the impact of childhood sexual violence can be extremely harmful and the physical and psychological consequences can sometimes last long into adulthood. Survivors may experience emotional difficulties, mental health problems, substance abuse and poor physical health, amongst other problems. Therefore it is of vital importance for parliaments to ensure that survivors receive support and that appropriate recovery and rehabilitation services are made available and easily accessible to all those who require it.
Raising public awareness is essential, but our efforts must not stop there. Although children must be given the tools to help fight sexual abuse, it is ultimately the responsibility of adults to create the legal framework and social structures to prevent abuse, assist victims and prosecute the perpetrators.
I therefore call upon my parliamentary colleagues to raise awareness of these important issues in their national parliaments and their local constituencies, not only on 18 November every year, as many of my colleagues are doing today, but all year long”.