Media reports on sexual abuse scandals involving clergy in several countries have highlighted an urgent child rights issue, says Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg in his latest ‘Comment’ article.
He refers specifically to a former Belgian bishop who, one year ago, trivialised his sexual abuse of two of his nephews by insisting he was not a paedo-criminal. During a television interview the bishop brushed aside several years of sexual abuse of a dependent child as “a small relationship.”
The remarks provoked widespread condemnation and rage and encouraged hundreds to come forward claiming they too had been victims of sexual abuse by priests within the Roman Catholic Church in Belgium.
Hammarberg says the abuse of children is widespread in all kinds of childcare institutions – whether run by different religious communities, private foundations or by state or municipal authorities. Among the victims are children with disabilities, orphans and those coming from dysfunctional families.
Even more frequent are the cases of abuse perpetrated behind the family door. Very often the abuser is someone on whom the victim depends in one way or another. Most child pornography and sexual abuse is perpetrated at home, in a bedroom.
“Sexual assault against children,” Hammarberg declares, “is an urgent human rights issue and fighting it should be a political priority.”
Viewpoint: Thomas Hammarberg’s ‘Comment‘ article
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ECHR Factsheet: Children’s Rights
Webfile: Protecting children and promoting their rights
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