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Protect Project: CSE issues and statistics in Cyprus

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According to the law in Cyprus, Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) involves engaging in sexual activities with a child who has not reached the legal age of 18 years for these activities and where coercion, force, or threats are used, or the offender is in a position of trust or the child is in a vulnerable position.

The National Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography (“NS”) constitute the introductory policy text and guide the actions and initiatives of the Republic of Cyprus’s Authorities.

The National Strategy embraces the Council of Europe’s philosophy and guidance for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (2007), known as the Lanzarote Convention, ratified by the House of Representatives and is being implemented in Cyprus as from 1 June 2015.

The National Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography 2016-2019 seeks the scope and scale of this social problem’s recognition, to identify the priorities that address it adequately, and to determine the necessary actions and policies in order to achieve the primary goal which can be described as follows:

“All children should have the opportunity to grow up in conditions of security, equipped with all the tools that would allow them to develop healthy relationships, without having to face any form of sexual exploitation or abuse, free from all forms of sexual injury”

According to a study on Prevalence, contexts, and correlates of child sexual abuse in Cyprus that has been conducted in the Department of Psychology of the University of Cyprus (2017) had the following six results:

  1. The prevalence of sexual abuse (SA) and sexual solicitation (SS) is approximately one in five in the general population, adding to little prior work examining these types of abuse in European countries.
  2. Adolescents were more likely to experience SA, SS, and trafficking than other developmental stages.
  3. The majority of results indicate that SA and SS are more prevalent among females and individuals living in cities, although parental education findings lack consistency.
  4. Perpetrators were more likely to be strangers/friends/acquaintances with the victims than relatives, with the percentages of relatives as perpetrators ranging from 3 to17%.
  5. Individuals experiencing either SA or SS were also highly likely to experience other forms of abuse and neglect.
  6. Finally, those experiencing SS scored high on impulsive personality characteristics, and both types of SA were associated with manipulative personality features.

In the context of carrying out the campaign “One in Five” in Cyprus, the University of Cyprus embarked on a scientific survey to record the Cypriot reality. This study showed that the picture in Cyprus is worse than the rest of the world, as, in our country, the rate of sexual abuse or exploitation of children is closer to one in four.

It should be mentioned that out of the children who took part in a survey conducted by the University of Cyprus, only a percentage of 15% of those who said that they had been abused admitted that they requested any assistance to deal with the incident, something which demonstrates the absence of correct information and an adequate support mechanism.

In 2013 thirty-seven criminal files of sexual abuse and exploitation of children were investigated by the Police and recorded in the Criminal Case Records, fifty- six in 2014 and seventy-seven in 2015.

Studying the judicial decisions and the conclusions of the survey mentioned above by the University of Cyprus, it is evident that the phenomenon of sexual abuse and exploitation of children is not formed recently, but rather a phenomenon that is now revealed. A dramatic increase in criminal files for child pornography cases was noted in the last decade.

More specifically, in 2014, seventy-six criminal files were registered, while in 2015, one hundred thirty-five criminal files. Moreover, again based on the Cyprus Police data, until the end of the year 2015, the Registry of Persons Convicted for Sexual Offences against Children, provided for in the law, mentioned one hundred thirty-seven people.

In addition to increasing the penalties allowed for offences of a sexual nature against children, the Law provides, among other things, for the following:

  • Whoever promotes or conceals potential abuse shall be guilty of an offence, while professional secrecy shall not be a defence. The imposition of the sentence shall be an aggravating factor if the offender is a teacher or health professional.
  • The defence of ignorance of the victim’s age or the victim’s consent shall be expressly ruled out.
  • The Police keep a registry of convicted persons with data – including the DNA – of both Cypriots and foreigners. The Police also can exchange information with sources abroad, while a conviction for such an offence shall never be deleted from the criminal record.
  • An employer whose work entails frequent contact with children (schools, sports clubs, et cetera) shall require the employees’ clear criminal record certificate in respect of these offences and shall not be able to employ a person who will not produce such a certificate.
  • The Ministry of Education shall proceed to education programmes in primary and secondary education, and the state shall carry out various campaigns to inform the public about the issue and ways of prevention.