By Constantinos Psillides
A bill calling for stricter penalties for people who engage in the sexual abuse of minors will be put into a plenum vote on Thursday, said House Legal Affairs chairman Sotiris Sampson.
The DISY MP told reporters that the Committee had wrapped up its discussion on the bill and by unanimous consent it would be put to the plenum for voting.
“It was challenging to finalise the bill at such a short notice but we did it. As promised the bill will be put before the plenum on Thursday,” he said.
The DISY MP also confirmed that the bill would harmonise Cyprus with EU law, by incorporating provisions of the Lazarote Convention, a treaty on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse that Cyprus signed in 2007 but never ratified.
The bill was introduced by the government only three weeks ago. House Legal Affairs had been discussing a separate bill regarding the sexual abuse of minors, introduced by AKEL MP Irene Charalambidou, for the last 18 months. AKEL furiously protested scrapping Chralambidou’s bill, accusing the government of jumping into action only after a sex scandal broke last month. Known Larnaca businessman Akis Lefkaritis admitted having sex with two underage girls, in case that caused a massive uproar regarding the absence of sufficient punishment for people who sexually abuse kids.
Charalambidou finally conceded to scrapping her bill, after Sampson agreed to include one of her proposals –a committee monitoring sex offenders- into the new bill.
“This is a big step in our struggle to combat sex crimes against minors,” said Charalambidou on Tuesday, adding that she expects the state to set-up the monitoring committee as soon as possible.
According to Chalambidou, four people who have been convicted of a sex crime against a minor will be released in 2014 and before this monitoring committee there was no way to keep track of their whereabouts.
The bill calls for far stricter penalties for child sexual abusers, ranging from a 25-years imprisonment to life imprisonment. According to the bill, anyone committing a sexual crime against a child under 13 years of age –even including exposing them to pornographic material- will jailed for life.
The bill also calls for a child sex offender’s registry that will be part of a larger EU network.
The bill is expected to pass unanimously.