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European Commission’s pledge to tighten up laws tackling child sexual abuse

Image: Yupachingping/Adobe Stock (via European Commission)

Lawmakers at the European Commission (EC) have outlined plans to strengthen legislation to help fight the sexual abuse of children.

The threat of both offline and online child sexual abuse in the European Union is growing year-on-year, affecting some 1.5 million children in the region in 2022 alone, says the EC.

It says that while progress has been made in giving better protection to children online, the existing criminal law rules on child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation ‘are no longer fit for purpose’.

The Commission proposes to update these laws to change ‘a reality’ which has around one in five children suffer from some form or other of sexual violence, whether its online or offline.

‘Prosecution and support strengthened’

It first wants to expand the definition across EU Member States of what qualifies as a criminal offence when it comes to child sexual abuse, to cover offences like livestreaming of child sexual abuse. In terms of dealing with offences, prosecution and support will be strengthened. This, says the Commission, will give victims a longer timeframe to report sexual abuse, grant them rights to financial compensation and provide more support to child victims and adult survivors alike.

Secondly, prevention is another key issue to be addressed, and this will be strengthened. Member States should make better use of available prevention programmes and invest more to raise awareness, especially for online risks. In addition, recruiters for activities involving close contact with children and for organisations working against child sexual abuse must be required to check the criminal records of the candidates.

Dubrava Šuica, EC Vice-President of Democracy and Demography, said: “Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a heinous crime with life-long traumatic consequences for children. We are strongly committed to make the protection of our children and their rights from all forms of violence a key priority in our work.

‘Because every child matters’

“With this updated Directive, we are strengthening protection, prevention, awareness and support towards achieving a secure and nurturing environment for the most vulnerable. Our children’s safety is our responsibility, and we will not give up. Because every child matters.”

Ylva Johannson, Commissioner for Home Affairs, said: “Fast evolving technologies are creating new possibilities for child sexual abuse online, and raises challenges for law enforcement to investigate this extremely serious and wide spread crime.

“A strong criminal law is essential and today we are taking a key step to ensure that we have effective legal tools to rescue children and bring perpetrators to justice. We are delivering on our commitments made in the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against Child sexual abuse presented in July 2020.”

Click here for more information on the proposed law changes.

Author: Simon Weedy

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