Child protection: initiatives and commitments in combatting sexual exploitation and abuse

On April 2, 2024, the specialized Committee of the National Human Rights Council tasked with overseeing the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse held its first meeting this year. Chaired by Daniella Misail-Nichitin, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the meeting was attended by both Committee members and representatives from various relevant institutions and organizations.

The primary agenda item was the presentation of the draft Action Plan for the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention) for the period 2024-2025. This involved thorough discussion, consideration of proposals and validation of the draft.

A set of proposals and actions stemming from the International Forum “Child Safety Online” was agreed to be translated into actions. The draft plan has been already circulated among relevant institutions for feedback and suggestions and will undergo further refinement.

Additionally, the meeting addressed the consultation process and promotion efforts regarding the draft National Action Plan on Online Safety for Children for the years 2024-2026, focusing on addressing challenges, objections and proposals.

Key objectives outlined in the Plan include enhancing the expertise of professionals in education and healthcare sectors who interact with children, delivering specialized trainings on child protection and rights, and implementing interventions tailored to the needs of child victims. The importance of analyzing the causes and risks of early sexual life among minors from medical, social, psychiatric and psychological perspectives was emphasized, along with the coordination of research efforts and the collection of up-to-date statistics on child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Other significant matters discussed included the development of an educational programme to raise children’s awareness of potential risks and empower them to protect themselves, as well as enhancing knowledge of parents and guardians to facilitate effective sexual education. Furthermore, the establishment of counselling services for potential adult offenders, ensuring the safety of victims and their families, and providing therapeutic assistance, particularly emergency psychological support, were underscored.

Attention was also given to developing a legal framework for implementing programmes mandated by the Convention, ensuring that individuals involved in criminal proceedings or convicted for offences under the Convention have access to effective intervention measures or programmes.

At the end of the meeting, subsequent actions, priorities, and commitments for the years 2024 – 2025 were delineated. The specialized Committee for Coordinating and Monitoring the Implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse oversees and coordinates all efforts to prevent and combat sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, to safeguard their rights and foster cooperation in this field.