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Calais boy

Firas, an unaccompanied child at the refugee camp in Calais

During her first intervention at the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council, the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, called on the Council to lead the way in helping ensure the elimination of all forms of violence against children.

During an interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children, Ms. Santos Pais, O’Casey highlighted the plight of unaccompanied children in the Calais refugee camp who are at high risk of sexual violence, and called attention to a recent pronouncement by the Holy See that its bishops do not necessarily have a duty to report sexual abuse to the police. This, despite the Holy See being a signatory of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

She argued that a culture of respect for children’s rights will never be achieved if there are states who continue to so openly flout their international obligations, with no repercussions, and called on the UN to do more.

Her statement follows below in full:

ORAL STATEMENT
International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 31st Session (29th February – 24th March 2016)
ID with the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children
Elizabeth O’Casey

 

We would like to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary General for her report on violence against children.

Such a report could not come at a more urgent time, with children being exposed to appalling levels of violence across the world – much of it well-known, yet well-ignored. Just a few days ago it was reported that a migrant boy was raped in the Calais refugee camp. Medical volunteers say they have treated seven boys aged between 14 and 16 in the past six months there. In four cases, the boys required surgery.

There are reportedly around 400 unaccompanied children in Calais. That is, 400 vulnerable children alone, and at high risk of sexual exploitation living on EU soil, their location and situation known by the authorities.

Also in Europe, we recently heard that the Vatican guide on how to deal with sexual violence against children advised that it is ‘not necessarily’ a bishop’s duty to report suspects of child abuse to the police. This, despite the Holy See being a signatory of the CRC, and in 2014 the UN’s child rights committee’s forcefully taking it to account in response to extensive violence against children.

As the Special Representative’s report notes, a genuine tackling of the root causes of violence against children is overdue, but a culture of respect for children’s rights and of zero tolerance will never be achieved if there are states so openly flouting their international obligations, with no repercussions.

It is incumbent on this Council to lead the way in dealing with violence against children and help ensure that the elimination of all forms of violence against children, as a distinct priority in the Sustainable Development Goals, is realised.

The protection of the vulnerable is a mark of a society’s civilisation. Currently, it’s not clear just how civilised we are.

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