Mr Palm's address during the workshop on "Safe Internet for Children" on 22 November 2010
Workshop on “Safe Internet for Children” organized by the Ministry of Interior, Office of the National Coordinator on Combating Trafficking in Persons, in cooperation with UNICEF, Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania, World Vision and ALO 116
As I was preparing yesterday for my address this morning, I used the internet. As usual, in a few minutes I got a massive amount of information that I was looking for. The internet opens a fantastic, new world, without Visa and provides endless opportunities.
And so, within minutes, I got was I was looking for. The latest news was, that last Friday two persons in the USA were each sentenced to 30 years in prison for child pornography and lifetime supervision. I learned that the mandatory minimum sentence for offenders producing child pornography is 30 years. And obviously, these sentences do materialize in the US - people end up in prison and stay there.
It is difficult to imagine a more shocking or shameful example of the violation of human rights than the sexual exploitation of children. It's disgusting. It's obscene. Every year, more than 1 million children worldwide are forced into prostitution, trafficked and sold for sexual purposes or used in child pornography. No country is safe.
The life of a child subjected to pornography is changed forever. Child pornography is harmful to children in two ways. First, it encourages the sexual abuse of children. Second, every photo or video becomes a permanent record of that child’s abuse. It is distributed over the cyberspace, and will circulate forever. Often, the material is used to blackmail the child into further submission and continue this despicable exploitation.
I found on the internet a report - less than one month old - organized by the European Union and London School of Economics and Politics. They had surveyed more than 23,000 children. It is easy to find.
12% of European 9-16 year olds say that they have been bothered or upset by something on the internet. The most common risk reported by children are communicating with people they haven't met and seeing potentially harmful content. But it varies between countries. In some countries up to 39% overall have encountered internet risks. 14% of 9-16 year olds have in the past 12 months seen images online that are obviously sexual. Three quarter of the 15-16 year olds are going on the Internet every day. And most of them do so at home, half of them in their own bedroom. In some countries, seven or eight year olds go online. They lack the skills to avoid upsetting stuff or block unwanted content or contact. Some start using mobile phones to surf. While Albanian children may still be a little behind with this, it is only a question of time.
Parents often don’t realize this; normally they don't have a clue what children do or see on the internet.
Now - thanks to the Internet - one can also easily read what needs to be done about this. I also recommend the UNICEF website, that will guide you to many resources that government, civil society or lawmakers can use.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is very clear about this, as is the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography - which Albania ratified in 2008. The Protocol emphasizes that child prostitution and pornography is a crime. So, we need to review the criminal law:
It should prohibit all forms of sexual exploitation of children, and the production, possession, and dissemination of child pornography. Sentences should reflect the gravity of these offences. The prosecution of an offence does not require the permission of the parents of the victim.
On Prevention: Programmes to reduce sexual exploitation must recognize that children on the margins are more likely to become victims of sexual exploitation. All social services that come in contact with children, such as health services or schools should take part in the identification and referral of abuse at home. Services need to reach out to children who have left home and dropped out of school.
I also like to encourage Parliamentarians to use their leadership to secure financial commitments for combating sexual exploitation of children, including for measures aimed to eliminate the causes, such as poverty alleviation, promotion of gender equality, education and protection of children without caregivers.
Finally, mechanisms for reporting crimes against children and for providing assistance to victims should be widely available and publicized. We have here the ALO 116, and will be hearing from them later. Other measures include ready access by female victims to female police officers, and to ensure that all police officials understand the gravity of sexual exploitation of children.
The media plays an important role. First, the media can act so that it neither violates the rights of child victims nor prejudices the rights of accused offenders to a fair trial. Second, the media can avoid reporting that reinforces prejudices and preconceived ideas that contribute to a tolerance of sexual exploitation of children, and help mobilize public opinion to participate in the struggle against sexual exploitation.