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Human rights: Italy determined to combat sexual abuse of children, says Terzi

Italy is “united in its determination to combat the sexual exploitation and abuse of children”. The point was underscored by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi as he opened the second day of the international conference on “The Role of International Cooperation in combating sexual violence against children”. Also attending the conference were the Ministers for Welfare, Elsa Fornero, and Justice, Paola Severino. “Defending the fundamental right to improve children’s conditions is not just a moral imperative. It also means contributing to the sustainable and democratic development of the poorest countries […] and giving the new generations a future of peace and development”, added Terzi.

Concrete implementation of the Lanzarote Convention

The focus of the discussion at the conference, held at the Foreign Ministry in Rome, is how to implement the Lanzarote Convention in truly concrete terms. The Convention, promulgated by the Council of Europe in 2010, was the first systematic provision concerning violence against children and has just been ratified by Italy. The goal is to coordinate efforts at the international level, underscored Minister Fornero. She pointed out that “the complexity, multi-faceted nature and gravity of the phenomenon” require an effort based on “the integration of national and international initiatives”. Each country must equip itself with “adequate normative and educational instruments”, added Fornero, who noted that Italy is in an advanced position on the legislative front.

Alarming data from the World Health Organisation

Justice Minister Severino quoted some alarming data from the World Health Organisation. 150 million girls and female adolescents, and 73 million boys and youths were subjected to forced sexual relations in 2002. Hence the need to “act on the prevention front and on the ability to transmit values and an awareness in young people that they are the holders of rights”. The institutions “must also undertake to support victims before, during and after legal proceedings”.

A priority for Italian Development Cooperation

Combating the sexual exploitation and abuse of children is a key priority for Italian Development Cooperation. At the national level, Belloni pointed out that her Directorate has promoted numerous development education campaigns. In collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local and regional government, it has focused on raising awareness on the international instruments concerning this matter, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has also disseminated information on the situation of children in Italy and in the countries where Italian Development Cooperation has implemented its projects.

At the international level, Italian Development Cooperation has placed a special emphasis on coordination between central and local authorities, the aim being to ensure that intervention strategies are implemented effectively. It has supported close collaboration between the institutions and civil society, given the latter’s key role in applying concrete measures on behalf of children. This work has translated into a strong social impact in support of children and adolescents in our development cooperation partner countries.