"Sexual exploitation of girls" - Joint meeting of the PACE Network of Contact Parliamentarians to stop sexual violence against children and the Parliamentary Network “Women Free from Violence"

Strasbourg , 

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Dear Parliamentarians,

Sexual exploitation of girls is a reality that affects all social groups and every country in the world. Starting 15 years ago the Council of Europe has been able to raise awareness of this grave violation of human rights and take decisive action to fight it from three different angles, and through three ground-breaking conventions:

- The Lanzarote Convention: focusing on sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children
- The Istanbul Convention: focusing essentially on violence against women and girls
- The Trafficking Convention: focusing on trafficking in human beings.
Together these three conventions help to protect and prevent sexual exploitation against girls in a systematic and complimentary manner and provide a robust safety-net.

The Lanzarote Convention aims to eradicate all sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

The Convention defines sexual exploitation of children as a criminal offence. It provides for effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions against prostitution, pornography, grooming and sex-tourism and also covers sexual abuse. Additional forms of sexual exploitation such as trafficking of children for sexual exploitation and forced marriage are covered by the Anti-Trafficking and Istanbul Conventions.

State authorities, civil society and the private sector need to join forces to prevent sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, to protect the victims and to end impunity. In this respect the Lanzarote Convention insists on both national and international co-operation.

The Convention also includes a monitoring mechanism, which we refer to as the Lanzarote Committee. This Committee has a double role. As a monitoring body it assesses the situation in the countries to identify challenges or obstacles to the effective implementation of the Convention. But it also effectively functions as an observatory of good practices and allows capacity-building.

The Lanzarote Convention covers all children without any particular focus on girls or boys, but the Committee has requested the Parties to specify how measures for victims and offenders take into account gender-specific requirements. The results of this monitoring work will therefore serve to cast some light on the measures needed to prevent girls from becoming victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.

The ONE in FIVE Campaign aims to promote the Lanzarote Convention and has proven an exceptional tool to challenge social tolerance of violence against children.

Hundreds of initiatives have been taken in Parliaments, by governments, local authorities and cities; in the media, schools and family centres; by prominent politicians, journalists, human rights advocates, ombudspersons, NGOs, film directors, actors and singers.

20 member States are currently carrying out national campaigns and nine more States are in the planning process. Campaign materials are available in 26 languages and the TV spot "Kiko and the Hand" exists in 36 languages.

I also very much look forward to the results of the Mid-Term Strategy Conference on "Growing with children's rights", which will take place in Dubrovnik in March 2014. One of the Roundtable sessions will be specifically devoted to raising awareness of sexual exploitation of girls and young women.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To date, 32 Council of Europe member States have signed the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Eight of these States - Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia and Turkey - have also ratified it.

The Convention will enter into force with 10 ratifications and we still need two more for this to happen. I am aware that several countries are working very actively towards this goal. The Austrian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers has made entry into force of the Convention one of its priorities and I hope it will be possible to mark the entry into force of the Convention during the Ministerial Session in Vienna in May. This occasion would also mark the three-year anniversary for its opening for signature in Istanbul.

I cannot stress enough the important role that parliamentarians can play in ensuring the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and its implementation. I would like to thank you all for your continued efforts to keep the Convention high on the political agendas of your governments.

I am sure I can count on your Network and the unwavering support and leadership of the General Rapporteur Mr Mendes Bota to continue to be engaged in promoting the Istanbul Convention so that the two ratifications that will trigger the entry into force of this ground-breaking treaty are obtained without delay.

Dear friends,

Let me conclude by emphasising the importance also of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in combating sexual exploitation of girls. This is a comprehensive treaty which applies to all victims of trafficking: children, women and men alike. A child-sensitive approach is reflected throughout the Convention, and in addition to the rights which apply to all victims of trafficking, children benefit from special rights, including the right to a legal guardian, education and assistance and a risk and security assessment before repatriation in the child's best interest.

The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) evaluates the implementation of the Convention by the Parties and pays particular attention to the identification, assistance and protection measures for child victims of human trafficking.

I look forward to the exchange of views with the expert speakers and I am sure that this event, the examples and good practices will contribute towards our ultimate goal:  the protection of girls from violence and sexual exploitation in Europe and beyond!

Thank you.