By Jean Christou
The House is on Thursday set to ratify the Lanzarote Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse, which will kick off a month-long public awareness campaign, instigated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The convention requires criminalisation of all kinds of sexual offences against children. It sets out that states in Europe and beyond shall adopt specific legislation and take measures to prevent sexual violence, to protect child victims and to prosecute perpetrators.
It is estimated that around 750,000 paedophiles are trawling the net at any given moment, and recently a Cypriot was one of 1,000 names given to Interpol for attempting to buy webcam sexual services in Asia from a site monitored by authorities.
Events, being organised by various groups for the awareness campaign in the coming month, include seminars and lectures on the role of educators , raising awareness of the issue among university students, a lecture for parents, one on violence in the family, and one on webcam child sex tourism, among other informative offerings.
The campaign will conclude with the release on December 10 of a report by the University of Cyprus on child sexual abuse in Cyprus.
On Wednesday the various organisations involved held a joint news conference to welcome the ratification of the convention in Cyprus, something they said would begin a new era. These included the Office of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Hope for Children UNCRC Policy Centre, the Independent Advisory Committee for the Prevention and Combating of Violence in the Family, the National Commission for UNESCO, UCY and the Leventis Foundation.
The theme of the ‘One in Five’ campaign is to ‘break the silence’. The title comes from the fact that estimates say one in five children fall victim to sexual violence.
PACE General Rapporteur on Children, and DISY deputy Stella Kyriakides said that 70-80 per cent of abuse comes from people in the child’s environment.
“Sexual abuse is not only physical but psychological and child victims have the right not only to justice but to therapy,” she said. “Some of the children are so young they don’t understand what has happened to them,” she added.
Kyriakides said victims were also afraid to speak out, and that was why educators needed to more clued in on the issue so they could see the signs and know what to do.
She also said the courts in Cyprus needed to be more child friendly, and parents had to stop putting photos of their young children online The ratifying of the Lanzarote Convention was the beginning of a new era for Cyprus, she added.
Hope For Children’s Dr Antonis Stylianou said it had taken seven years to see through the ratification. “Tomorrow a new journey begins in Cyprus,” he said. He also said that the campaign slogan ‘One in Five’ showed the statistical enormity of the problem. “We want to turn ‘one in five’ into none in five’,” he said.