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For stronger sanctions against child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and child pornography

29 March 2010

"Child sexual abuse" means children being subjected to horrendous crimes that leave deep scars for their whole lives. "Child sexual exploitation" means using children as sex objects and getting rich out of their suffering. "Child pornography" means images of children suffering sex abuse. Downloading or viewing child pornography on the internet leads to more children being raped to produce those images. The response of the EU cannot be too clear or too resolute. Whatever the EU can possibly do against that, the EU must do and will do." said Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström as the European Commission proposed new rules obliging EU countries to impose more severe punishment on those who sexually abuse children. The proposal also calls for criminal prosecution of activities like 'grooming' (befriending children with the intention of sexually abusing them) and "sex tourism", even if the child abuse has taken place outside the EU. The Commission also wants more to be done

Today's proposal would make it easier to fight these crimes through different tools:

  • by providing severe criminal sanctions across the EU for sexual abuse and exploitation, as they are serious crimes. New forms of abuse will also be covered, like 'grooming' - luring children through internet and abusing them, viewing child pornography without downloading files or making children pose sexually in front of webcams.
  • "Sex tourists" travelling abroad to abuse children will face prosecution when they come home.
  • Child victims will be protected against additional trauma resulting from interviews by law enforcement and judicial authorities, or having to be exposed in front of the public in court, and will be helped by a free lawyer.
  • Every offender should be assessed individually and offered tailor-made treatment so that they don't abuse again.
  • Prohibitions on activities involving contact with children imposed on offenders should be effective not just in the country where they were convicted but across the EU.
  • Member States will be obliged to ensure that access to websites containing child pornography can be blocked, as they are very difficult to take down at the source, especially if the site is outside the EU. The proposal will leave it to Member States to decide exactly how the blocking should be implemented but legal safeguards will always apply.

The proposal will now be discussed in the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers and once approved should be translated into national legislations.