The UK has formally signed up to a new convention to help safeguard children against sexual violence. However, we’re one of the last countries to do so – and there’s much more to be done.
The Lanzarote Convention on protecting children against sexual violence is a legally-binding treaty which means countries have to take a number of preventative actions.
It was opened for signatures in 2007, meaning the UK is one of the last remaining members of the Council of Europe to ratify the convention.
So, What is the Lanzarote Convention?
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The Lanzarote Convention requires countries to criminalise all types of sexual offences against children, something which is in line with Article 19 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Basically, governments must be doing all they can to protect children from abuse.
Our ratification of the Lanzarote Convention sends a clear message that this government is determined to play its part in ending the abuse of children not only in the UK but around the globe.
Additionally, the convention encourages countries to take extra measures to protect victims of abuse and to prosecute perpetrators. It also encourages countries to involve children in the development of policies to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation.
Crucially, it measures whether countries effectively comply with its requirements of the convention, meaning states can share best practice and fix inadequacies.
But, Why’s It Taken This Long To Ratify?
It’s clear that sexual abuse of children is a problem here in the UK, so just why has it taken so long to ratify? According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 1 in 20 children in the UK have been victims of sexual abuse and 1 in 3 children who have been sexually abused don’t tell anyone. From 2016 – 2017, the UK police recorded more than 63,000 sexual offences against children. While there are already significant measures in place to deal with sexual violence against children, these statistics suggest more could be done.
A memo from the government says that it’s always been committed to tackling the problem and that it’s now taken the “necessary legislative and administrative steps to implement the convention in UK law”.
From 2016-2017 police recorded more than 63,000 sexual offences against children.
And it is fair to say we are doing things. In the UK, sexual violence against children is illegal in accordance with the 2003 Sexual Offences Act. The 2003 Act covers offences including the rape of children, the incitement of children under 13 to sexual activity, and engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.
Each country in the UK also has their own child protection programmes to identify children who are at risk and take action when necessary. There are specific guidelines in place for those who work with children on how to contend with potential instances of abuse. However, there is no legal obligation to report sexual abuse against children.
A Commitment To Ending Sexual Violence Against Children
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Victoria Atkins, the Minister for Crime Safeguarding and Vulnerability, added that while the government’s record for tackling child exploitation is very strong “it is a sickening fact that there are children being abused every day by predatory individuals and this is why working with our international partners to prevent further suffering is so vital.”
This will help to protect children from sexual violence in the UK and, crucially, it will also allow the rest of Europe to benefit from the UK’s depth of experience and expertise in this area.
General Thorbjørn Jagland
General Thorbjørn Jagland, The Council of Europe’s secretary, added: “This will help to protect children from sexual violence in the UK and, crucially, it will also allow the rest of Europe to benefit from the UK’s depth of experience and expertise in this area.”
It’s clear we’ve got a long way to go, but our ratification of the Lanzarote Convention is a clear commitment to tackling the problem.