By Evie Andreou
EDUCATORS need to be properly trained on how to identify and deal with child sex abuse cases, General Rapporteur for children at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Stella Kyriakidou told a teachers’ seminar yesterday.
The seminar is part of the ‘One in Five’ campaign, launched by the Council of Europe and aims to “equip children, their families/carers and societies at large with the knowledge and tools to prevent and report sexual violence against children.”
According to statistics, one in five children falls victim to some form of sexual abuse, hence the name of the campaign.
Kyriakidou said that schools can contribute to the early diagnosis of the problem but that proper training is needed and called on the education ministry to organise training for teachers in order to be able to tackle such issues.
Children’s rights commissioner Leda Koursoumba said that a mechanism needs to be developed to help children to be heard and evaluate that information in accordance with policies and programmes.
“It is the responsibility of all those who respect and defend children’s rights and especially all those who are in contact with children through their work, to act in order to fight this plague,” Koursoumba said.
“It is our obligation to listen, even now, what children have to tell us. We ought to empower them and take into serious consideration what they have to tell us,” she said.
“On average, 40 of the 153 child abuse cases reported annually concern sexual abuse,” senior police officer Costas Veis said.
He added that 80 per cent of these cases end up in court but one out of three is acquitted.
Last week, the House unanimously ratified the Lanzarote Convention that requires criminalisation of all kinds of sexual offences against children and 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.
Antonis Stylianou, manager of the University of Nicosia Law Clinic and spokesman of the non-governmental organisation Hope for Children said that few child sex abuse cases are taken to court and pointed out the importance of the ratification of the convention.
“Now is the time to take effective measures for the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse since children are not only the future of a country but also the present,” Stylianou said.
To mark the ratification of the Lanzarote convention in Cyprus, various groups are organising seminars and lectures to help raise awareness on child sexual abuse and exploitation.
The parliament announced that 60,000 informative flyers against child abuse were printed and will be distributed to hospitals, schools and the citizens’ service centres.
A group of MPs headed by Kyriakidou is to deliver 10,000 flyers at the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia next week.