By Andria Kades
UNESCO Cyprus and the Cyprus Sports Association (KOA) jointly organised a lecture on how sports can help reduce the ‘one in five’ children that face sexual violence.
Titled ‘Combating Sexual Violence Against Children: The Role of Sports in Preventing and Fighting the Phenomenon,’ the lecture aimed to encourage children to “break their silence and cover-ups” of sexual violence.
“In the field of sports it is important to bear in mind that not only can perpetrators be attracted by the uncontrollable access that sports often offers to children and vulnerable adults but also these structures, values and cultural practices could create favourable conditions to abuse power and trust, sexually harass and abuse,” KOA chairwoman Klea Papaellina said.
Although sports could create a “harmonious society without prejudices” it was important to develop strategies and measures to combat the aforementioned problems.
One such move is creating a national code – the proposal has already been submitted by MP Stella Kyriakides and is already in its final stages – that addresses minors and adults that are possibly subject to sexual harassment, abuse or are taken advantage of and how this can be combated and prevented, Papaellina said.
“Our next step as KOA is to share and implement the Code to all sports bodies in Cyprus.”
UNESCO Cyprus General Secretary Pavlos Paraskeva said that even discussing this taboo topic in Cyprus was a positive step towards stamping out sexual violence against children.
“One in five children in Europe and Cyprus have been or will be victims of some form of sexual abuse or exploitation. These numbers present a sad reality that can only shock everyone,” he said.
“Protecting children from every form of violence including sexual violence should be a key political and social priority in every democratic state so that children can develop into healthy, happy and productive adults.”
According to Giorgos Nicolaides, Greece’s representative in the World Health Organisation for sexual abuse and neglect for children, 85-95 per cent of perpetrators are someone the victim knows and trusts.
The Lanzarote Convention, created in 2007 by the European Council, paved the way to implement measures and good practices that protect children’s rights and ensured their wellbeing in every sector of society, Papaellina said.
In 2014, Cyprus’ parliament unanimously adopted the Prevention and Combating of Sexual Abuse, Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography Act, she added.
The lecture, part of a European campaign, was organised and co-funded by the European Council and the Leventis Foundation.