On 18 November 2019 the Child Rights Centre organised a conference to mark the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. This conference was organised as part of the project “Strengthening mechanisms to prevent and address child online sexual exploitation and abuse in Serbia”, implemented by the Child Rights Centre with the support of the Council of Europe.

The main focus of the conference was to empower children to support each other in preventing and responding  to sexual violence. As the Child Rights Centre supports children and young people through activities of the DX Club, the members of the Club presented the report that was prepared and submmitted to the Lanzarote Committee of the Council of Europe in June 2018. The report was focused on children’s awareness of the risks of sexual abuse and exploitation via the internet and available forms of protection in Serbia. Research shows the proven impact of children’s participation on their development. Children who are encouraged to express their opinions are less vulnerable and can better protect themselves from risks. It is precisely because the digital world is attractive to them that they should be more actively involved in the process of prevention and protection against sexual exploitation and abuse. This is also the reason that children actively participated in all the conference panel sessions.

Apart from children, the conference gathered professionals working in different sectors, such as justice, social welfare, education, interior, health, civil society, Juvenile Justice Council,  Judicial Academy, National contact centre for online safety and other  relevant experts.

The participants also had an opportunity to get acquainted with the main findings of the Report on the State of the Right of the Child to Protection from Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, prepared by the Child Rights Centre. The report, among other things, pointed out at certain shortcomings of the legislative and strategic framework, and also gave recommendations for its improvement.

The aims of the conference were to contribute to:

  • Fostering shared understanding of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse;
  • Hearing the voices of children about the situations discussed and involve children and young people in the conference discussion;
  • Exchanging expertise among stakeholders and listening closely to practitioners working in the field to better inform policies and practices;
  • Gathering and disseminating good and promising practices to combat sexual abuse and exploitation and building on them to address current and future challenges.