George Theofanous Goodwill Ambassador of “Hope For Children” UNCRC Policy Centre (HFC) and of the ONE in FIVE Campaign of the Council of Europe to stop sexual violence against children was the keynote speaker at the 18th meeting of the Network of Contact Parliamentarians to stop sexual violence against children.
The meeting took place at the Filoxenia Conference Centre and aimed at exchanging views and good practices and raising awareness amongst Council of Europe member states and the international community on the importance of ratifying the Lanzarote Convention.
The well known Greek pop music composer Theofanous talked about his experience in promoting the ONE in FIVE Campaign in Cyprus and how this has contributed to the changing mentality regarding this subject among the public and the institutions. Specifically, he referred to the initiative of HFC to bring the campaign in Cyprus and promote it back in 2011. He gave an overview of specific steps taken to that regard, like for example the promotion of material translated in Greek, at primary schools and police stations and the organisation of a number of promotional events, while also undertaking the task of educating and informing students, teachers and parents on issues of sexual abuse.
Moreover, he referred to the first academic research conducted in Cyprus by HFC regarding the issue of the online grooming of children, stressing that while children nowadays are increasingly aware of the dangers that surround them, parents, teachers, public institutions and NGOs remain the ones responsible to listen to children and find ways to protect them.
Last but not least, he said that in addition to the ONE in FIVE Campaign, a rehabilitation system needs to be put in place, providing psycho-social support for children-victims of sexual violence, adding that the current legal structure does not provide for the protection required under the current international standards and calling once again for the ratification of the Council of Europe Lanzarote Convention against the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, by the Cypriot state.
He closed his speech by saying that although much progress has been achieved through the ONE in FIVE Campaign and the public nowadays is more willing and comfortable with discussing this distressing subject, there are many improvements that need to take place in order to achieve the desired level of protection. “It is up to people like me to spread the word and up to people like you - dear committee members - to turn this aspirations into reality”, he concluded.
Other speakers included Valeriu Ghiletchi, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, Stella Kyriakidou, General Rapporteur on Children of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Leda Koursoumba, Cyprus Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Dr Antonis Stylianou, Senior Advisory Board Member of "Hope For Children" UNCRC Policy Centre, Johan Van den Hout, Thematic Spokesperson on Children of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and Stefan Schennach, Rapporteur on “Child-friendly juvenile justice: from rhetoric to reality”.