By Evie Andreou
Professional secrecy is no excuse for not reporting signs of child abuse, a circular sent to teachers by the education ministry to teachers has warned.
The circular, accompanied by a copy of the law on prevention and fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation based on the newly-ratified Lanzarote convention aims to inform teachers on the law’s provisions and of their obligations.
The text said that within the new legislative framework all offences of sexual nature against children are punishable with heavy prison sentences, especially when it concerns children under the age of 13, where it provides for life imprisonment.
“In these are included offences that concern the abuse of special relationship or vulnerable relationship and relationship of trust,” the circular said.
It also said that in the event teachers suspect sexual abuse or exploitation of a student, according to the law a written report must be sent to the nearest police station and the welfare services notified.
“It is considered important for all educators to keep in mind that anyone that omits to report any case which may come to their knowledge, where a child is involved… commits an offence,” the circular said.
School units were also urged to make sure that all students are informed about the existing help lines where they can report sexual abuse.
The ministry however, failed to implement a legal obligation under which all bus drivers that transfer students are required to present to the ministry a clean criminal record. The issue was recently discussed at the House.
“We can never be too careful when it comes to children,” AKEL MP Irene Charalambidou told the Cyprus Mail.
Charalambidou also said that already one convicted sex offender was given a court order to appear before the monitoring authority upon his release.
The monitoring committee was formed in June as part of the legislation on the prevention and fight against child sexual abuse and is tasked with monitoring convicted paedophiles. “A second person will be served with a court order soon” she said.
The Lanzarote Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse was unanimously ratified by the plenum in November and a month-long public awareness campaign was launched instigated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Within this framework, the University of Cyprus’ Psychology Department is to present next Wednesday the first complete research study on child sexual abuse in Cyprus.
By Evie Andreou