The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Network of contact parliamentarians to stop sexual violence against children held its 27th and final meeting on 1st December 2016 in Florence. In her opening remarks, Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, underlined the pressing need to ensure children know the risks associated with the digital world.
The protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse in the digital environment was chosen as the main focus of discussions which brought together, in particular, contact parliamentarians of the Network, researchers of the UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti kindly hosting the meeting, the Council of Europe Congress of local and regional authorities, and civil society representatives.
The meeting was an opportunity for the Network to adopt a final statement which recognised the new forms of abuse of children created by the digital environment, and recommended the promotion of sound legislative domestic frameworks, based on the Lanzarote Convention, to tackle the issue.
The Network highlighted the need to “promote multi-stakeholder co-operation” and “ensure that parents, families and professionals working with children receive support in providing positive education empowering children against sexual violence, including in the digital environment, thus enhancing their physical and psychological wellbeing”.
The members of the Network finally undertook to “continue to promote an open debate on the protection of children against sexual violence and the imperative to support victims, overcoming persisting taboos and avoiding the stigmatisation of survivors.”
The meeting took place at the UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti in Florence (Italy), in the historical setting of the Istituto degli Innocenti, an orphanage and hospital dating back to the 15th century.