The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention)
The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention) entered into force on 1 July 2010. It has been signed by all 47 member states of the Council of Europe (but not ratified by all).
The Lanzarote Convention is a comprehensive international legal instrument for the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. The Convention covers sexual abuse within a child’s family and in the “circle of trust” as well as acts carried out for commercial or profit-making purposes. It also tackles all possible kinds of sexual offences against children (including sexual abuse of a child, exploitation of children through prostitution, grooming and corruption of children through exposure to sexual content and activities and offences related to child abuse material).
According to the Convention, governments in Europe and beyond should develop legislation to criminalise all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse against children, and should take concrete measures designed to prioritise the best interests of children, in four areas:
Prevention: children should be made aware of the risks of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and should be empowered to protect themselves; persons working in contact with children should be screened and trained; intervention programmes or measures for sexual offenders (whether convicted or potential) should be regularly monitored.
Protection: reporting any suspicion of sexual exploitation or sexual abuse should be strongly encouraged; telephone and Internet helplines should be set up; programmes to support victims and their families should be established; therapeutic assistance and emergency psychological care should be provided; child-friendly judicial proceedings for protecting the victim’s safety, privacy, identity and image should be put in place (e.g. the number of interviews with child victims has to be limited, the interview has to be carried out in a reassuring place, with professionals trained for the purpose).
Prosecution: the Convention requires states to criminalise all sexual offences against children (including sexual abuse within the family or circle of trust, exploitation of children through prostitution, pornography, participation in pornographic performances, corruption of children, solicitation of children for sexual purposes). The Convention requests that countries extend their statute of limitation on sexual offences against children, so that proceedings may be initiated after the victim has reached the age of majority. It also establishes common criteria to ensure that an effective and proportionate punitive system is put in place in all countries, and foresees the possibility of prosecuting a citizen for a crime even when committed abroad (“extraterritoriality principle”). For example, prosecution can be brought against sexual offenders when they return to their home country.
Promotion of national and international co-operation: Co-operation helps countries to identify and analyse problems, find and apply common solutions, share data and expertise, combat impunity and improve prevention and protection measures. The Lanzarote Convention is open to accession from non- European as well as European countries, in order to facilitate international cooperation in fighting the problem of sexual offences against children.
The implementation of the Convention is monitored by the Committee of the Parties to the Convention (the Lanzarote Committee), which assess the protection of children against sexual violence at national level on the basis of information provided by national authorities and by other sources. The Lanzarote Committee also acts as a platform to discuss and give visibility to challenges arising and examples of good practice.