Urgent call for action to fight the horrors of child sexual exploitation and abuse

                                                                                                                                                               

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT INTERGROUP ON CHILD RIGHTS HOSTS HIGH LEVEL EVENT TO SHINE SPOTLIGHT ON THE HORRORS OF CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE AND THE URGENT NEED TO ENHANCE THE GLOBAL RESPONSE

                                                                                                                                                           8 December 2021

 

The Intergroup on Child Rights hosted a High Level event in Brussels on Tuesday 7 December to shine a spotlight on the horrific realities that so many children face today. There has been a staggering increase of child sexual abuse cases over the last few years, with ever-younger victims. This situation has been further exacerbated by the current pandemic. The restrictive measures enacted by governments to restrict the spread of the virus led hundreds of millions of children confined with their abusers under without the opportunity for external intervention, as well as with both offenders and vulnerable children spending increasing amounts of time online, making children easy prey for sexual predators on the net. The event comes ahead of an important piece of legislation on this issue that the European Commission is poised to adopt in early 2022. The legislation will have an impact on millions of children’s lives in the EU and set a unique precedent around the world. The EU has the opportunity to take its place as the world leader in tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse if co-legislators get this right.

The event featured two keynote speeches from powerful advocates of children’s rights. One from the EU – European Parliament First Vice-President, Roberta Metsola MEP – and Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex GCVO as Patron of the UK NSPCC representing the voices of children in the UK, one of our nearest partners in the fight against global child sexual exploitation and abuse. The event was broadcast online to an audience across the globe and can be watched here.

The speeches were followed by two High Level panel discussions enabling in depth discussion of what can be done to enhance efforts to protect children worldwide.

 

Panel One: What can the EU do to fight Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse?


Ms. Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

Caterina Chinnici MEP, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights

Mr. Vincent Van Quickenborne, Belgian Justice Minister and Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Adrien Taquet, French Secretary of State for Child Protection and Families

 

Screening of the Advocacy Impact Statement of the Phoenix 11 recorded with the assistance of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

 

Panel Two: Enhancing the Global Response

 

HE Marie Louise Coleiro-Preca, President of Eurochild, former President of Malta

Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner of Australia

Christian Papaleontiou, Director Tackling Exploitation & Abuse Unit, UK Home Office

 

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ms. Ylva Johansson said: 

We are here because we share a commitment. To use the power we have as adults and policy makers. To protect children, who do not have that power.

Early next year I will propose legislation to make it mandatory for companies to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse.

Voluntary just isn’t good enough. Last year companies reported 65 million images and videos. But it’s only the tip of an iceberg. 5 companies account for 99% of reports. Out of thousands of companies. I will also propose a new EU Centre to prevent and combat child sexual abuse. Bringing together prevention, investigation and assistance to victims.” 

While digitalisation will continue to provide massive opportunities to our way of life, we must also approach this transition in a holistic way. When we speak of this transition, we often use the phrase ‘no one should be left behind’. This must also include our youngest generation. For that to happen we need to insist on incorporating a culture of safeguarding.

 

Roberta Metsola MEP (EPP), First Vice President of the European Parliament said: 

“It is crucial that online platforms and technological companies understand the responsibility that they bear in the digital era. We need stronger safeguards to clamp down on social media misuse. Policy-makers must also enable online platforms to report on child sexual abuse cases that they detect. We need to recognise that we are all partners in the fight against online child sexual abuse and continue working to integrate the safeguarding of children online horizontally across all policies. It is also high time that we create an EU centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse, which would provide proper support to Member States… What is illegal offline must be illegal online.”  

 

Hilde Vautmans MEP (Renew), Co-Chair of Intergroup on Children’s Rights and Renew Europe spokesperson on the subject said: 

“Enough is enough. For far too long we have been complacent and silently accepted the pervasiveness and power that tech companies have in our lives. We cannot allow failing to protect our children from the horrors of sexual abuse.

We are confronted with the most heinous crimes with long-lasting impact in children’s lives that will haunt them for life. The EU has to take the lead in this global fight and go ahead with the creation of an independent fully-fledged EU Centre to combat and prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse that serves as first contact point for Electronic Services Providers. It is time to be bold and provide our citizens with concrete answers: we want to the Centre to be fully operational and tasked with receiving and analyzing reports of CSA, in addition to supporting prevention and assistance to victims work by Member States.”  

 

Caterina Chinnici MEP (S&D), Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights said:

“The life of children is now more and more interconnected and marked by the online world, which exposes our children to a new set of potential dangers.

The dramatic and alarming increase of child sexual abuse cases over the last few years requires a global and coordinated response from the legislator that can restore justice for child victims, who have been viciously & surreptitiously stripped away of their rights.  

We cannot allow to have sexual predators and entire networks of organised crime to take children away from their childhood and feed a community of paedophiles out in the net which benefit from one of the most horrific crimes a child can go through. A future EU Centre to combat & prevent child sexual abuse will enhance cross-border cooperation in investigations & will ensure a swift victim identification and bring perpetrators to justice.” 

 

The High-Level event gathered the most powerful voices from across the world to shine a light on the scale and severity of this horrific cross-border crime and featured two panels to find a common and coordinated response to enhance the global cooperation to bring about a real change in this fight.

 

Mr. Van Quickenborne, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice said: 

The safety and wellbeing of children concerns all of us and the increase in the number of child abuse cases is therefore very worrying. Belgium has a lot of expertise in battling these terrible crimes and is working together with other countries both on the European and international level to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. But we must do more. New European legislation, better cooperation with social media companies and a EU Centre to combat & prevent child sexual abuse are urgently needed to protect our children better.”  

 

French Secretary of State for Child Protection and Families, Mr. Adrien Taquet said: 

Sexual violence against children is a scourge that we must all fight relentlessly hand-in-hand. I welcome the Commission’s decision to directly address this essential issue in view of the dramatic consequences that this violence has on children. It is essential that this mobilization from all Member States continues both in terms of prevention, as well as from a legal perspective in order to guarantee effective protection for children. Special attention will be paid to the Commission’s work and to the concrete implementation of the measures that will be recommended.”  

 

“The Internet poses immense risks for children and we, as legislators, have the duty to regulate this space and protect children. We need to build a victims-based & child rights-based approach that transcends the mere conservative criminal law approach, so as to better reflect the complexities of these multi-faceted crimes.

Child sexual abuse online does not stop with the moment in which the abuse is consumed, but it continues at every single view of the abusive image & condemns children to multiple violations of their rights. Only by removing the CSAM – and more broadly all harmful content online – we are able give children back their control & amend the wrong and harm done to them, which otherwise will haunt them for life.

The fight against child sexual abuse should be the number one priority of all world leaders, and in the Intergroup we will work relentless to ensure that the EU takes the lead in this global fight in pursuit of justice for all victims.” concluded David Lega MEP (EPP), Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights

 

 

 

 

For more information, please contact:

 

– Mr. Emilio Puccio, Secretary General of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights

+32 228-57167

emilio.puccio@europarl.europa.eu

– Mr. Brian Synott, Communication Adviser, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ms. Ylva Johansson

+32 229-55800

Brian.SYNNOTT@ec.europa.eu

– Mr. Maxim Laporte, Adviseur Communicatie – Conseiller Communication, Belgian Deputy-Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, Mr. Vincent Van Quickenborne

+32 474 77 70 30

maxim@teamjustitie.be

– Ms. Clarisse Artore, Press officer, French Secretary of State for Child Protection and Families, Mr. Adrien Taquet

clarisse.artore@sante.gouv.fr

 

 

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