Time is NOW

                                                                                                                                                  Tirana, 19 June 2020

                                                                               Time is NOW

Message from the Child Protection in Emergencies Working Group against child sexual abuse and exploitation

Through this letter, civil society and international organizations working in the field of child protection in Albania, part of the working group for the Protection of Children in Emergencies, express our deep shock at the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in Albania, coming to light through the recent severe cases made public recently. This situation should be considered as a national emergency, which needs a nationwide reflection and the reaction of all actors to enable the effective protection of any child at risk of sexual violence or abuse.

Unanimously, we condemn any form of violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect of one or more children, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, the Constitution of the Republic of Albania and the Law on the Rights and Protection of the Child. The latter, in Article 23, explicitly states that "The child has the right to protection against all forms of violence, including abuse, neglect, exploitation, trafficking, hostage-taking, pornography, sexual abuse, and other forms of violence." Article 26 determines the right of children to protection against "Trafficking and any form of sexual exploitation and abuse".

The signatory organizations call on the public institutions to analyze as soon as possible the gaps and barriers that disable the prevention and early identification of child abuse, and the drafting of concrete measures to eliminate these obstacles and to design and implement policies that will enable the treatment of such cases with priority and in each case in accordance with the best interests of the child. Emphasis should be placed on cross-sectoral coordination, where all sectors that provide services to children and families understand their role and responsibility in protecting children and coordinate in order to prevent and identify cases of child abuse as early as possible. Plans and measures should have an approach based on the rights of the child and bring to life the commitments that the Albanian state has made by becoming a party to the above Conventions. Regarding the above, we call for a meeting of the National Council for the Rights and Protection of the Child, whose main task is to advise and coordinate state policies to guarantee the rights and protection of the child in all areas as well as the establishment of a technical coordination committee in charge of the implementation of the legislation and policy framework for the protection of children from all forms of violence with the participation of all relevant sectors.

After a child becomes a victim of sexual abuse or exploitation, he/she is re-victimized whenever the procedures are not child-friendly and whenever his/her story is made public. We are also concerned about all the difficulties faced by families, parents, or even the siblings of the abused child and the increased risk posed to them by bullying, intimidation, or reprisals. The latest case of child sexual abuse makes us worry that children continue to re-experience the trauma of abuse due to unethical media reports, and unfriendly criminal proceedings. In accordance with Article 6, Point 2 of Law no. 18/2017, which stipulates that: "Public and non-public authorities, as well as courts, should have as primary consideration the highest interest of the child in all actions and decisions taken in relation to children", we call on not only the media, but also other institutions to be careful not to allow a child to be re-victimized in cases where the latter is already a victim of violence, of whatever form.

Finally, it is important to radically change those norms and social values that tolerate and accept violence and abuse, including sexual abuse of children, as something normal, as a private matter for which we have no need to intervene. Once and for all we must say unanimously that opposing and preventing Violence and Abuse is everyone's duty! It is a legal duty enshrined in the law on child protection and rights, but above all it is a human duty to react as soon as possible to rescue those children that are in need of protection. Any action to protect, assist or prevent violence, exploitation, trafficking or child abuse should be a priority for all.
The time to end child sexual abuse, to listen to the voice of children, to end silence, to address the abuse and sexual exploitation of children with absolute priority, is NOW.

List of signatories:
2. Alo 116 111- National Child Helpline
3. Alo!Mik
4. Fondacioni “Together Albania”
5. Nisma për Ndryshim Shoqëror, ARSIS
6. Sanità di Frontiera - Health Beyond Borders
7. Save the Children
8. Shoqata Internacionale për Solidaritetin
9. Shoqata Kombëtare Edukim për jetën - SHKEJ
10. Terre des hommes
11. Të Ndryshëm & Të Barabartë
13. World Vision Albania