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Speech at the opening of the Exhibition "Shame – European Stories"

Strasbourg, Monday, 10 October 2022

(In French and English)

Monsieur le Président de la Confédération suisse,
Madame la Secrétaire Générale du Conseil de l’Europe,
Monsieur le Président de la délégation suisse auprès de l’Assemblée,
Docteur Guido Fluri,

Je souhaiterais commencer mon discours en remerciant vivement la délégation parlementaire suisse d’avoir proposé d’organiser cette exposition lors de cette session, M. Guido Fluri qui a lancé l’Initiative pour la Justice, ainsi que toutes celles et ceux qui ont rendu possible cet événement.

Cette exposition souligne l’urgence absolue de s’attaquer aux violences envers les enfants, qui sont multiformes, existent dans tous les pays et à tous les niveaux de la société. Les chiffres sont parlants: en Europe, environ un enfant sur 5 a été victime d’abus ou de maltraitance. Mais un tiers des enfants victimes ne le disent pas.

Les raisons pour cela sont nombreuses : parmi elles, la honte, la sidération, la culpabilité, la peur. La peur de ne pas être cru, la peur des conséquences, la peur de l’impact que cela pourrait avoir sur les familles et leurs amis. Ou simplement, l’impossibilité de reconnaître les abus à un âge aussi jeune.

J’aimerais saluer le courage des participants à l’initiative Shame – European stories, qui ont réussi, parfois après de nombreuses années et d’innombrables souffrances, à briser le silence.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Around 60 stories of child abuse victims across Europe have been collected, documented, and portrayed in this exhibition.

Bringing the testimonies and personal stories forward in this artistic way through portraits, captured through the lens of award-winning photographer Simone Padovani, not only raises awareness, but also encourages us to become more involved and focused on such an urgent issue, still considered by many to be taboo.

At the Parliamentary Assembly we would like to reiterate our support and our commitment to protect children rights. Our reports are often at the origin of new international legal standards, such as the Lanzarote Convention, which protects children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and was ratified by 48 States.

Currently we are dealing with children’s right to be heard and we are taking practical steps for integrating child participation into the work of the Assembly. Of course, we are also considering the best ways to support the children affected by the war in Ukraine who are undergoing the worst brutality.

In this work, we can build on many past reports, including those on children in migration and children in armed conflict. Refugee children from war and conflict zones need global protection for the multiple risks they face during their journey to the host country, such as violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking and exploitation for forced and illegal labour. The Parliamentary Assembly considers that it is an obligation of human rights for these children to receive special protection.

Dear all,

So many victims of child abuse live among us. The very brave people who had their pictures taken for this exhibition bear witness. They tell of the abuse they have experienced. They tell of the abuse they had to endure and their stories are staggering.

Those affected come from the most diverse countries in Europe, their stories are different, and yet we recognize parallels. It is not only about the abuse of the past, but also about life afterwards.

We therefore invite you to join in our fight against child abuse, to break the silence and bring out the truth about abuse, violence and sexual violence against children.

Thank you all for coming here today, for standing against children’s abuse and supporting the rights of children.