AS (2016) CR 22
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Tuesday 21 June 2016 at 3.30 p.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates
4. Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.
5. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the verbatim report.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.40 p.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open. I am sorry for the delay, which was for technical reasons.
May I welcome the President of the Parliament of Liechtenstein, Mr Albert Frick, and his delegation to the Assembly? Thank you for coming.
1. Changes in the membership of committees
The PRESIDENT – The next business is to consider the changes proposed to the membership of committees, as set out in document Commissions (2016) 06 Addendum III. Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?
They are agreed to.
2. Election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights
The PRESIDENT – The ballot to elect a judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of the United Kingdom is now open again. The polls will close at 5 p.m. Those who have not yet voted may still do so by going to the area behind the President’s chair. For the election of judges, the names of Mr Fournier and Mr Garðarsson have been drawn as tellers. They should go to the back of the President’s chair at 5 p.m. I hope to announce the results of the elections at the end of the first debate.
3. Communication from the Committee of Ministers
THE PRESIDENT – The first item of business this afternoon is the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly, presented by Ms Marina Kaljurand, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, chairperson of the Committee of Ministers.
Dear minister, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to this Chamber in your role as chairperson under Estonia’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. We had the chance to hear a presentation on your chairmanship priorities a month ago during the proceedings of the standing committee in Tallinn. We also had an open and frank exchange of views on some of the topical issues on the European agenda.
The priorities that you have set for your chairmanship, including the protection of children’s rights and gender equality, are subjects that the Assembly sees as crucial. I therefore cannot but reiterate the Assembly’s full support for your activities. Dear minister, we now look forward to hearing your statement on the implementation of those priorities, as well as your views as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, on current geopolitical trends and the role of the Council of Europe. It is therefore my pleasure to give you the floor.
Ms Marina KALJURAND (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers) – Honourable President of the Parliamentary Assembly, honourable Secretary General, distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to speak in front of the Assembly for the first time today, having had the pleasure of meeting some of you already in Tallinn on 27 May at the meeting of your standing committee.
Our chairmanship started with several high-level meetings and occasions, beginning with the ministerial in Sofia and the recent, innovative and inspiring EuroDIG conference in Brussels. There, I had the opportunity to introduce Estonia’s chairmanship priorities related to internet freedom and to announce that Estonia will be the next host of EuroDIG in 2017. It is indeed a great pleasure to be here with you today, just before our prime minister´s visit to the Council of Europe tomorrow.
Estonia’s priorities for the period of our chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe have already been introduced on several occasions, but allow me to give this distinguished audience a very brief overview of our priorities. I would like to emphasise at the outset that we strongly defend Europe’s fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We will continue to address the issues raised by Bulgaria during its chairmanship, and we will add other dimensions.
First, I will address human rights and the rule of law on the Internet. I would like to thank the Council of Europe for its efforts to ensure that our core values are fit for purpose in the digital age and help us to maintain a people-centred approach to the Internet’s development. As information and communication technologies develop rapidly and affect the lives of people in Europe, the protection of human rights and the rule of law online are needed more than ever. In this respect, the Council of Europe’s instruments, its unique mandate to defend core values, its extensive network of State and non-State actors within and beyond Europe, and its potential to develop agile, hybrid working methods, are of considerable added value.
During our chairmanship, we will work with all partners to ensure the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, both offline and online, we will contribute to the implementation of the Council of Europe Internet governance strategy for 2016-19, and we will promote relevant Council of Europe standards. Estonia is committed to making the Internet a safe, secure, open and inclusive environment. This will require global multi-stakeholder co-operation, in particular between governments and major Internet companies. We welcome the Council of Europe’s work to include such companies in its international legal frameworks on human rights and the rule of law. Making business part of the solution, not part of the problem, is the way forward.
Secondly, we will focus on issues related to gender equality. Achieving gender equality is central to the protection of human rights, the functioning of democracy, respect for the rule of law, and economic growth and sustainability. More equal societies work better for everyone, and for this reason in Estonia we work hard to have equal representation at decision-making levels and equal treatment in the labour market in competitiveness and pay.
We stress the importance of the Council of Europe’s gender equality strategy for 2014-17, which aims to increase the impact and visibility of gender equality standards and to support their implementation in member States. There are clear inter-linkages between gender equality and human rights. Societies that honour the principles of gender equality also stand out in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Thirdly, children’s rights are an integral part of human rights. For example, on 1 January this year, Estonia enacted a new Child Protection Act that is based on the concept of creating a supportive environment for children, making the best interests of children the primary consideration, and ensuring that children receive the necessary assistance and care in a timely manner, in close co-operation with relevant institutions at national and local level. We will continue Bulgaria’s work in this field, emphasising three key areas of the new Strategy for the Rights of the Child: child participation, children’s rights in the digital environment, and children in migration. The prevention of and fight against the sexual abuse of children will also remain one of our priorities in the children’s rights agenda. Estonia will ratify the Lanzarote Convention during our chairmanship and will emphasise the need for better implementation of the convention throughout the member States of the Council of Europe.
In addition to these priorities, we will continue to advance other areas of political importance for the Council of Europe and further improve its co-operation with other international organisations. Our agenda is ambitious and the tasks ahead of us are considerable.
Dear members of the Assembly, let me now inform you about some of the main developments in the Committee of Ministers since your previous session. The most significant event from an institutional viewpoint was the 126th session of the Committee of Ministers in Sofia on 18 May. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the outgoing Bulgarian chairmanship for the work done during its chairmanship and for its hospitality during our meeting in Sofia.
Under the session’s theme of democratic security, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs discussed the key issues currently at the forefront of the European stage. Among these, combating violent extremism, radicalisation and terrorism continues to be a crucial goal, as the recent incidents in Turkey, France and the United States have so tragically reminded us. In Sofia, the ministers welcomed the progress made on implementing the action plan they had adopted the previous year and called for as many States as possible to sign the Council of Europe convention in this area. To date, the protocol on foreign terrorist fighters, which was opened for signature in Riga in October 2015, has already been signed by 29 States and by the European Union. This is good news, but we can achieve a still better result. We must continue to draw members States’ attention to the importance of this treaty so as to ensure its entry into force as soon as possible. And for this, honourable members of the Assembly, we look for your help and the influence you have in your respective parliaments.
In Sofia, the ministers also discussed the contribution that the Council of Europe could make to the ongoing refugee crisis. Yesterday, on 20 June, World Refugee Day was marked in many countries around the world to raise awareness of the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons forced to flee their homes owing to war, conflict and persecution. We cannot insist enough on the need to work together to meet this immense challenge and deal with the many human tragedies that result. This morning’s debate reminded us of the need to strengthen solidarity among European countries so as to rise to the challenge and ensure that the fundamental rights of migrants and refugees are respected in Europe. I welcome the Assembly’s ever-increasing involvement in these matters, such as the recent visit to Greece by a delegation led by President Agramunt. It is our shared responsibility to ensure that all persons within the jurisdiction of member States enjoy the protections afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights.
I welcome the steps taken by the Secretary General to contribute to this collective effort, including his recent appointment of a Special Representative on Migration and Refugees. For its part, the Committee of Ministers is determined to step up its activities and encourage the preparation of practical means to prevent and combat the illegal trafficking of migrants and to protect children affected by the migrant crisis. In an informal setting in Sofia, we also considered means of securing compliance with human rights standards in conflict areas. It is indisputable that all people living in such areas should be entitled fully to enjoy the rights enshrined in the ECHR. Council of Europe bodies responsible for monitoring compliance with human rights should therefore be allowed access to such areas and be able to perform their tasks freely, without hindrance and in complete safety. Such operations in conflict areas should in no circumstances, however, lead to, or be interpreted as, a de facto recognition of the authorities exercising control over these areas.
This consideration naturally leads me to the situation in Ukraine. We have two causes for satisfaction. The first is the presence in this Chamber of Ms Savchenko. Your release, Ms Savchenko, which the Committee of Ministers also called for, is a great relief. I hope that it will be followed by the release of other hostages and illegally detained persons. The second is the recent adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of constitutional amendments relating to the reform of the judiciary. This marks an important stage in Ukraine’s democratic development and will, I hope, be followed by further progress. The Council of Europe will continue actively to support Ukraine’s efforts towards the consolidation of democratic institutions, including through the implementation of the 2015-17 action plan.
Nonetheless, the situation in Ukraine remains a major cause for concern, both for the security of the country and the stability of Europe as a whole. At the end of April, the ministers’ deputies reaffirmed their commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, reiterated their condemnation of the illegal annexation of Crimea and expressed grave concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation, as reflected in the recent ban on the activities of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. The recent worsening of the situation on the ground in Eastern Ukraine is also a major source of concern and makes it all the more necessary that all the parties implement the Minsk agreements promptly and fully.
The Committee of Ministers also continues to follow the development of the conflict in Georgia very closely. For this purpose, it can rely on the valuable information provided regularly by the Secretary General. In Sofia, the committee took note of the Secretary General’s consolidated report on the conflict for the period from November 2015 to March 2016. As you know, an item on this conflict is also included on the agenda of every meeting of the deputies. The deputies recently reiterated the member States’ unequivocal support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called once again on the Russian Federation to comply with its obligations and commitments under international law.
As in Ukraine, the question of access by Council of Europe bodies to territories beyond the control of the legitimate authorities is a key issue. The Secretary General has been invited to engage in dialogue with the Russian Federation and Georgia to arrange for unrestricted access. The Council of Europe is also fully committed to working with the Georgian authorities on the implementation of Council of Europe standards in Georgian legislation and practice. It was for this purpose that a new action plan for Georgia was officially launched in Tbilisi at the beginning of May by the Georgian authorities and my predecessor, Mr Mitov, the Bulgarian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Elsewhere in the Caucasus, the situation remains tense between Armenia and Azerbaijan following the violent confrontations in April in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. Fortunately, discussions are under way under the aegis of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group with a view to resuming negotiations on an overall settlement. The fact that the presidents of both countries met yesterday is a positive sign.
Armenia and Azerbaijan jointly committed to a peaceful settlement of this conflict on joining the Council of Europe, and I encourage them to redouble their efforts to bring to an end a conflict that has already lasted too long. In Armenia, the Council of Europe is also keen to support the authorities’ efforts to further enhance democracy, human rights and the rule of law, in particular through a new action plan launched officially last month. In Azerbaijan, an action plan was adopted nearly two years ago and the Ministers’ Deputies will soon review its implementation.
The recent decisions of the Azerbaijani authorities to release several journalists and political opponents are a welcome development. I hope to see other releases follow, particularly that of Mr Ilgar Mammadov. Earlier this month, the Committee of Ministers once again insisted that Mr Mammadov be released without further delay and agreed to examine his case at each of its weekly meetings until this takes place.
Finally, regarding Belarus, the recent news is unfortunately not encouraging. Since the Assembly’s last session, the Ministers’ Deputies have had to condemn another execution – an unwelcome addition to the three death sentences handed down in 2016. The Committee of Ministers has repeatedly called on Belarus to bring an end to the death penalty. Establishing a moratorium as a first step towards abandoning this barbaric practice would be a major advance for this country, which hopes to join our Organisation. Our aim remains to integrate Belarus into the Council of Europe, but this can only be done on the basis of our values and principles, which include the organisation of free and fair elections. I therefore very much hope that the Belarusian authorities will organise the forthcoming parliamentary elections, which your Assembly has been invited to monitor, in compliance with democratic standards.
Last but not least, I would like to draw your attention to another high-level event promoted by our chairmanship, which took place last week, on the protection and promotion of human rights in culturally diverse societies. This event was directly linked to the core principles of the equal dignity of all human beings, and the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all members of society. The recent tragedy in Orlando only confirms the ongoing need to continue our efforts to improve the protection and promotion of human rights. Terrorism and hate crimes have no place in our societies. Such horrific acts of violence take the lives of innocent people, and cause despair and grief. We condemn them absolutely.
This was just a brief presentation of the major developments that I wished to share with you. I set much store by constructive co-operation between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly. I am therefore willing to answer any questions you might wish to put to me.
Distinguished members of the Assembly, assuming the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers is a great responsibility. I assure you that we approach our chairmanship with the highest commitment. We hold the Council of Europe in great regard as an organisation for creating norms and standards. In our second chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, we aim to reflect in the Council of Europe the same spirit of leadership and inspiration from which my country has benefited over the last 23 years. But the efforts of the chair are only part of the story. I strongly believe that the best results can be achieved only by working hand in hand with you, the Assembly. To quote Bertrand Russell: “The only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation.” Thank you for your attention.
The PRESIDENT – Dear Minister, thank you very much for this constructive debate. You know how much importance I attach to inter-institutional co-operation. I hope that we will continue to collaborate closely for the rest of your chairmanship.
We will now proceed to questions. I remind colleagues that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches.
Mr KOX (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – It is good to see you again, Minister: hello. As we know, there is a fast-growing lack of trust in the capability of the European Union to deal with almost everything. Might this not be a good moment for the Committee of Ministers to again promote the many possibilities of the convention-based system that is so characteristic of the Council of Europe? When the European Union falters, would it not be helpful if the Council of Europe offered its convention-making experience to EU member States and non-EU member States, as it has proven to be effective for over 65 years? Will you reflect on that possibility?
Ms KALJURAND – Thank you for the question. When addressing the Parliamentary Assembly last April, President Juncker underlined that EU accession to the Convention is a political priority for the European Commission. This question was discussed recently during an exchange of views between the Ministers’ Deputies and High Representative Mogherini on 11 May, when she recalled that accession is a treaty obligation and confirmed that accession is a political priority for the Commission. EU accession is, indeed, essential in completing the construction of a coherent area of human rights protection in wider Europe.
The Council of the European Union and the European Commission are examining the follow-up to the Court of Justice’s opinion. Only after that can work on the draft accession treaty resume. I hope that those steps will be completed as swiftly as possible. The Committee of Ministers will continue to follow the matter closely.
Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – Thank you, Madam President, for an excellent speech. Given your track record in making Estonia a democratic country, we have full trust in you as chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. Obviously we always talk about what has happened in this period, and I would like to give one example. The Georgian opposition was attacked by athletes linked to the Georgian Government. You called for an investigation, yet there has been no investigation and no one has been arrested. The former Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr Merabishvili, has just had a judgment in the European Court of Human Rights under Article 18 on the grounds of condemnation for political reasons. How are you going to deal with these cases vis-à-vis the Georgian Government?
Ms KALJURAND – Thank you for the question. To start with, Georgia has been under monitoring by the Committee of Ministers since its accession in 2002. The Committee of Ministers has approved a new action plan to assist Georgia in fulfilling its commitments over the period 2016 to 2019. The action plan was launched recently, as I mentioned in my speech. As for the cases you mentioned, I trust that the Georgian authorities will take appropriate steps. There is no excuse for any form of violence. In that context, I would also like to take this opportunity to say that the Council of Europe will support Georgia’s preparations for the upcoming elections.
As for the case of Mr Merabishvili, it is not for me to comment on the judgment delivered by the European Court of Human Rights, but I trust that the Georgian authorities will execute that judgment, and the Committee of Ministers will supervise the execution process, in accordance with Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as it does with any other Court judgments.
Ms MIKKO (Estonia, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group) – Ms Kaljurand, you mentioned that one of the priorities of your presidency is gender equality. There are two possibilities with regard to gender equality: either everything is perfect in Estonia or vice versa. Given that you chose gender equality, do you think that all 47 member States, including Estonia, will finally ratify the Istanbul Convention, which is extremely important for the whole of Europe?
Ms KALJURAND – Thank you for your question, dear Marianne. Yes, gender equality is central to human rights and genuine democracy. That is why it was natural for my country to choose it as one of its priorities when assuming its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. The Council of Europe has played a pioneering role in promoting gender equality and gender mainstreaming. Implementation of the Council of Europe legal framework is key to making gender equality a reality. In November 2013, the Committee of Ministers adopted the gender equality strategy for 2014 to 2017. During our chairmanship we would like to look at the strategy and think about the priorities for the next period.
Being an e-lifestyle country, as we like to say, we see the benefits of using ICT for promoting gender equality. The basic point is that human rights online are equal to human rights offline, but when it comes to gender equality, the Internet and the use of ICT provide new opportunities – new opportunities for education, new opportunities for awareness raising and new opportunities for women. At the same time, we have to be careful about the threats and the difficult circumstances that the use of ICT might create. I am proud to say that next week we will have a high-level discussion about gender equality in Tallinn, in which we will both participate. I will be very happy to make some remarks at that event.
Mr GOPP (Liechtenstein, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)* – My question is also to do with gender equality. You have made gender equality central to your presidency, but it is certainly not a given in the economies of most member States of the Council of Europe. The fact that there are few women in leading positions in those economies is a result of an inability to achieve gender equality or other reasons. My other question is about executing the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
Ms KALJURAND – Thank you for your question, although I apologise to Ms Mikko that I did not answer the second part of her question, about the Istanbul Convention. I assure you that we are in the process of ratifying the convention, which we hope to complete in 2017 or 2018 at the latest, and as chairman we will encourage other countries to do likewise.
In answer to Mr Gopp’s question, I agree that we have to promote gender equality in all spheres – in politics, the economy, civil society, education and so on. Here my country is very determined. As the chairman of the Committee of Ministers, we will continue with the strategy and the good job done by Bulgaria. Together with other member States, we will look at what might be priorities for the next strategy. We will look at all spheres equally, because there is indeed no difference. We can describe a society as democratic and sustainable if it fully takes into account the needs of women and fully employs women as much as they are ready to participate. We have to encourage that, which is something I do here in the Council of Europe, and I will do it at home and I am doing it in all the countries I visit.
As for maintaining the authority of the European Court of Human Rights, in December last year there was a discussion in the Committee of Ministers about the worrying trend whereby a number of member States have questioned the binding nature of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, which is what forms the very basis of the system for protecting human rights in Europe. The member States of the Council of Europe have all agreed to be bound by the Convention, including Article 46, which requires States to comply with the Court’s judgments. The Convention system has played a major role in improving human rights protection on our continent in countless ways. There are many examples of the positive effects of the Convention. As politicians, we should emphasise that. We must also underline and explain the important role that the Convention system has played, and continues to play, in protecting human rights, the rule of law and democratic values. As chairperson of the Committee of Ministers, I am fully committed to that aim.
Sir Roger GALE (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – It is clear that in the present economic climate the Council of Europe will be required to make further savings. It is also very important that the core work of the Assembly and its officials does not suffer as a result, so can the Minister tell the Assembly, either now or in writing, how much of the 2015-16 budget has been spent on travel and attendance allowances for experts, members of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, representatives of NGOs, participants in the Forum for Democracy, other non-members of staff and the private office of the Secretary General?
Ms KALJURAND – Thank you for the question. Making the Organisation more efficient, more relevant and more flexible in order to ensure greater value for money is a clear priority of the Committee of Ministers. Significant progress has been made in that respect through the reform process initiated by the Secretary General in 2009. At a time when Europe is facing major challenges such as terrorism, the ongoing refugee crisis and other threats to democratic security, we both agree that we must provide the Organisation with the necessary means to address those challenges effectively. On the specific question of how the budget was distributed in 2015-16, I refer you to the programme and budget document, which provides all the necessary details.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. We now reach the list of speakers. We will hear three questions, which Ms Kaljurand will answer together.
Ms BLONDIN (France)* – The holding of a new summit of heads of State and heads of government of the Council of Europe is regularly mentioned, and the President of our Assembly favours that suggestion. What is the stance of the Committee of Ministers? On what arguments does it base that stance? Such a meeting might have consequences for the budget.
Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Armenia has continually threatened Azerbaijan with nuclear assault, stating that it has possessed such a weapon for a long time. I cannot understand why the Council of Europe is ignoring such warnings, which it considers unserious. If the Council of Europe finds Armenia unserious, why does Armenia keep its current roles? If you assess Armenia as a serious State, why do you not react promptly to such terrible statements? What measures can the Committee of Ministers take in relation to Armenia’s nuclear threats?
Ms YAŞAR (Turkey)* – Given the violation of human rights and the tragic situation in Syria, how many asylum requests have been approved by Estonia in order to share the burden with other countries? What measures does Estonia envisage pursuing in its capacity as President of the Committee of Ministers?
Ms KALJURAND – Thank you for those questions. I agree that holding a fourth Council of Europe summit is an important matter that requires careful consideration. A central element is to define an agenda focused on important political issues that can attract heads of State and heads of government to adopt important decisions for the future of the Organisation. One must also be sure that the political environment on the pan-European scene is conducive to the adoption of such decisions. I trust that those considerations will be at the centre of the report that Mr Nicoletti is now preparing for the Assembly. The Committee of Ministers will give careful consideration to that report once the Assembly adopts it and decides on the follow-up.
The question of Armenian threats and nuclear weapons has not been discussed by the Committee of Ministers. When joining the Council of Europe, Armenia committed itself to settle conflicts through peaceful means, and it is important for all sides to refrain from making statements that raise tensions on the ground. On the contrary, efforts should be made to create an environment conducive to a peaceful settlement. The Council of Europe could contribute to creating such an environment.
Thank you for the question on Estonia’s position and commitments on the migration and refugee crisis. As the Estonian Foreign Minister, I reiterate that the migration crisis can be solved only if we act in co-ordination and if we express solidarity not only in words but in deeds. My country is committed to doing our fair share by receiving more than 500 war refugees this year and next year. So far we have received 20. I am not proud of that number, which I will explain. My government and my country have decided to approach the migration crisis responsibly, which means that we are prepared to receive refugees who come to Estonia voluntarily. Our police and border guard authorities talk to each and every refugee. Why is that important? If we compare social benefits in Europe, it would have been very easy for my country to receive a couple of hundred war refugees and see them leave for Germany, Finland, Stockholm and other neighbouring countries where social benefits and salaries are much, much higher. That is why we decided to do it responsibly by talking to each family and each individual to explain where Estonia is, what they are supposed to do once they arrive and what they are supposed to know about our culture so that they can learn the language and prepare for integration. The refugees we have received are integrating well. Parents have found jobs and children are going to school. We will continue so that we fulfil our commitments by the end of next year.
When we talk about refugees and the migration crisis it is not only about the number of refugees we receive; it is also about the fight against organised crime. The most vulnerable groups—women and children—are still dying in Syria. They are not able to pay organised crime so that they can reach Europe. It is a complex issue. My country is committing humanitarian aid to refugee camps in Jordan, Tunisia and other countries, but fighting organised crime is also important. There are many elements. It is not only about receiving refugees, but I reiterate that my country is doing its fair share and will maintain solidarity on this issue.
The PRESIDENT – I am sorry; I know that there are four more people on the list to ask questions, but Ms Kaljurand has to leave, so we must conclude. On behalf of the Assembly, I thank her most warmly for her communication and for the answers she has given to questions.
I must remind you that the vote is in progress to elect a judge to the European Court of Human Rights. The poll will close at 5 p.m. Those who have not yet voted may still do so by going to the area behind the President’s chair.
4. Debate: Fighting the over-sexualisation of children
The PRESIDENT – We now come on to the debate on the report titled “Fighting the over-sexualisation of children” (Document 14080), presented by Mr Valeriu Ghiletchi on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, with a statement by Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
I remind you that speaking time is limited to three minutes.
In order to finish this debate by 6.30 p.m., we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 6 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the votes.
I call Mr Valeriu Ghiletchi, rapporteur of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I am happy to address colleagues today in relation to my report. The motion for the report was tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, and I am glad that the committee is keeping an eye on children’s rights. I was also glad to the learn that children’s rights are priority No. 3 for the Estonian presidency. The report that I am presenting is about the rights of our children. I am a former chair of the committee and had the honour of leading it during the One in Five campaign, which was probably one of our Assembly’s most successful campaigns. Together with the Lanzarote Convention – the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse – it raised awareness of the need to protect our children. It is important to underline that point, because even this report is a result of the meetings and hearings that took place as part of the One in Five campaign.
We know that children and families face multiple pressures in today’s Europe. My focus in producing this report was on the pressure on children to take part in a sexualised life before they are ready to do so. There is commercial pressure on them to consume sexualised and deeply inappropriate internet, television and popular culture content. The mass media and marketing campaigns regularly portray children as sexual objects. The difference for children and teenagers today compared with those from earlier generations, including most of us here, is that we are now living in an increasingly sexual and sexualised culture in our modern societies.
Many parents, educators and policy makers I spoke to in preparing the report feel that today’s culture is often inappropriate and harmful to children. We heard that parents want to protect their children, and we know that teachers are also worried about the situation. It is important for us to help them. We need to train professionals to help parents protect their children from inappropriate content in the public space.
As parliamentarians from around Europe, we represent countries with different media regulations and standards. One of the key points in the report and the draft resolution is about the role of the media. We must ensure that the media and advertising are subject to clear regulations to protect children from over-sexualisation. Where legal regulations already exist, regulators need to connect better with professionals, teachers and parents to ascertain whether they feel that the media and advertisers are complying with the law. The draft resolution specifically asks for bodies to be set up to do that if they are not already in place. If they are in place, it is important to monitor what they do.
Our society is exposed to sexualised images in public places – on television; on the internet, including social media; and in videos, magazines and newspapers. That leads to increasing pressure on children. The draft recommendation and resolution prepared on behalf of the committee call on the Assembly to express its concern about the increasing trend of the over-sexualisation of children. In calling on member States to look at the phenomenon, we want to raise awareness of it, which will make it easier to tackle and prevent.
This afternoon, the committee discussed one of the amendments that we will consider later, which would remove the words “particularly girls” from the resolution. The reason I oppose the amendment – I am glad that the committee supported me – is that the resolution is based on facts. The expert we had at the committee pointed to the fact that girls are more vulnerable to over-sexualisation than boys, and we need to be aware of that fact so that we are in a better position to protect our children, particularly girls.
The draft resolution is not just intended to raise awareness. It also calls for action. It invites member States to strengthen their relevant legislation and policies, starting with in-depth studies and data collection. We need to study the issue in depth so that we know more about the causes of it and how to fight it. As I said, the responsibility of the media is crucial. The media in our countries, including those running marketing campaigns, must be aware of the issue and must be encouraged – in fact, forced – to respect the relevant legislation. The original version of the report had stronger language on that. I have accepted the softer language, but I still believe it is important to recommend to our member States that they look carefully at the media and marketing sector.
It is important to understand that we are not calling for freedom of expression to be limited. Freedom of expression has its place, but at the same time there are tendencies that need to be fought. Targeted programmes should be developed to educate children both at home and at school. As I said, children need protection, and parents are in a very good place to provide it. There are two main opinions on that. Some of us believe that only the State has the role and responsibility to educate children. Others believe that it is exclusively the role of parents. I believe that we need to build a team of parents and teachers to protect children. Only a balanced approach will help us. I am asking you to vote for the version that was supported by the committee, which said targeted programmes should be developed to educate children. Professionals in charge of childcare and education should be specifically trained, and children themselves should be empowered to develop critical attitudes towards media content and to become resilient to peer pressure, notably regarding the sharing of sexualised images.
I conclude by asking you to support both the draft resolution and draft recommendation set out in this report. I am looking forward to the debate today. I also express my thanks to the committee, to the secretariat and to the experts who helped me to draw up this report. I am also very glad to see that we have a special guest today, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio, who will share her experience of this subject. All of this will not only help us to understand the importance of the issue and the importance of adopting this draft resolution, but to do our best when we go home to protect our children.
Thank you for your attention.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, Mr Ghiletchi. You have four minutes remaining.
Dear colleagues, I am very pleased to welcome to the Chamber today Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Dear Special Rapporteur, it is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to our Assembly, which is not unknown to you.
Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio had a long and distinguished career in the Council of Europe, having served as Deputy Secretary General for 10 years. Since her appointment as a UN Special Rapporteur, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio has continued to co-operate with the Council of Europe on the eradication of all forms of violence against children, most recently in the framework of the new Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child.
Dear Special Rapporteur, thank you for being with us today and for your continuing support of our work. The floor is yours.
Ms de BOER-BUQUICCHIO (United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography) – Mr President, distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this august Assembly today. As you can imagine, it is not without emotion that I am back in this hall, having had the privilege to serve this Organisation for a decade as Deputy Secretary General.
If it were not for the support of the Parliamentary Assembly, many of the great achievements of the Council of Europe in the area of children’s rights would not have seen the light of day. I am thinking in particular of the Lanzarote Convention, but also of the Istanbul Convention, as both those texts are very relevant to our discussions today.
Today I stand here in my capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to identify the root causes of those heinous crimes and to promote measures to prevent a response to the many forms of exploitative behaviour covered by my mandate.
The object of the report presented by Mr Ghiletchi is of great interest to my mandate and must be considered in all its complexities. Indeed, the notion of over-sexualisation of children must be unpacked. Perhaps we should start by choosing the right words. The recently launched terminology guidelines for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse were elaborated by an inter-agency working group, including members of the Council of Europe’s Secretariat and myself, and aim to promote conceptual clarity, thus contributing to more effective protection of children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. I recommend that you follow these guidelines, which are less harmful and stigmatising than other terminology when we are dealing with children who are victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. I will certainly do the same, starting by asking for a change in the title of my mandate.
I have no doubt that the over-sexualisation or even the mere sexualisation of children results in a higher incidence of sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It does so in two ways: first, it triggers a higher demand for child exploitation material; and, secondly, it fuels the demand for sexual contact with children in exchange for remuneration or other considerations. In a report that I presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March, I addressed the demand factor and explained that it included: one, the individual offenders who pay financially or in kind for sexual services involving children; two, every part of the supply chain that facilitates such access to children; and, three, the social, cultural, gender and institutional constructs that create an environment in which the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is either ignored, tolerated or even accepted. Discussing over-sexualisation of children leads us to this latter, underlying source of demand.
Even though we witness new trends, most of which are facilitated by developments in information and communication technology, the underlying problem is not really new. The manifestations highlighted in the report simply perpetuate the myth about the inferiority of women and girls, and constitute a fertile breeding ground for gender-based discrimination and violence against girls, including sexual violence.
It is difficult to quantify the exact extent and impact of the commodification of children in the media and in marketing campaigns; further research on this subject would be very welcome. None the less, an undoubted characteristic of several media outputs is continuing gender discrimination, with girls being the primary target group. I believe that such elements are not new content and are not necessarily increasing but instead are relics of patriarchal structures.
The instrumentalisation of women’s bodies as objects to serve sexual and other purposes remains a pervasive message across several outlets and it does not spare children. Culturally imposed gender stereotypes place women and girls in the role of serving males and negate their ability to make decisions regarding their own sexual life, making them prime targets for sexual violence. The commodification of the female body reinforces the notion of its consumption and is extended to girls, which really sends the wrong message to boys.
All of that is further compounded by the inherent power imbalance between children and adults. Children are often not considered as rights-holders and are even viewed as property. The automatic linkage of sexuality to physical appearance can have dire consequences, as the rapporteur rightly pointed out. Negative body image and low self-esteem among children, due to their disappointment at being unable to live up to the sexualised images projected on them, can result in serious physical and mental disorders, including eating disorders, and can even lead to suicide.
Setting minimum standards of weight for fashion models in line with health guidance via national legislation and policies, combined with regulations by modelling agencies and having advertising campaigns that embrace the diversity of female forms, are good practices that are recommended by the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice.
In several countries, the law does not prohibit sexualised images of children, which are also referred to as “child erotica”, if there is no explicit focus on the nude sexual parts, although obviously such abusive material is very likely to arouse sexual appetite for minors. Unfortunately, in countries where such a legal ban does exist, producers resort to adult women dressed up as girls, which merely confirms the bias and has the same perverse effect.
Mr Ghiletchi’s report also brings to our attention the problem of the so-called self-generated sexual material. Leaving aside the material obtained through grooming or coercion, there has been a rise in non-coerced self-generated sexual material. Peer pressure and the erroneous belief that these images can be deleted instantly or that they will remain within a circle of trust encourages the exchange of such material. Not only can that have disastrous consequences for children’s privacy and integrity, but there is even a risk of children being prosecuted as sex offenders, even though they never intended the material to be used for wider distribution or criminal purposes. Raising awareness about safe Internet usage and protection measures from ICT companies is therefore essential. The best interests of the child must be at the heart of any response to this new challenge.
That leads me to the crucial question of consent and children’s sense of agency. As with all children’s rights, child participation is a key element in preventing and combating the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. We should acknowledge the natural sexual curiosity of children and accompany them in the process in order to foster a sense of agency and the possibility of giving consent – saying yes or no. The onus is on us to provide them with the right tools, by teaching about sex and relationships in an age-appropriate manner, based on a culturally relevant approach, whether at home or in school, to enable them to decrypt and develop counter-narratives on these fundamental questions.
As my colleague the special rapporteur on health has put it, “Healthy sexual development requires not only physical maturation, but an understanding of healthy sexual behaviour and a positive sense of sexual wellbeing. Sexual initiation can be a natural and healthy aspect of adolescence, and adolescents have the right to be provided with the tools and information to navigate sex safely.”
Finally, let me underline the responsibility of the private sector, which is generally at the helm of media outputs. The media and advertising world should step up prevention efforts by refraining from perpetuating gender stereotypes and distorted notions of sexuality and from promoting sexualised images of children. They lead not only to children believing that certain behaviour is acceptable at a young age, but to potential offenders purporting that children are legitimate objects of sexual desire. Corporate social responsibility is fundamental, and we should encourage and promote existing international guidelines, such as the UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights. Non-judicial grievance mechanisms are part of these recommendations.
Above all, we must step up efforts to address the root causes of the disregard for and commodification of children. Prevention, raising awareness and education efforts on gender equality, non-discrimination and the rights of the child must not be limited to children; they should also apply to parents, teachers, public officials, the media, private industry and society at large. I trust that I can count on you to convey that message. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, for your important contribution to our debate. I wish you every success in your further tasks and hope that we will continue to enhance our co-operation.
We now come to the list of speakers. I call Ms Fataliyeva from Azerbaijan to speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.
Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – I thank Ms de Boer-Buquicchio for her contribution to our discussion of the report. I also want to express my gratitude to the rapporteur, Mr Ghiletchi, for bringing the topic to our agenda.
The over-sexualisation of children is a challenge we all face, and it needs a serious approach. The sexualisation of children, and of childhood in general, is a phenomenon to which the public still pay too little attention. It is therefore inevitable that the sexualisation of society, which is getting more and more aggressive, has an impact on children and their world. As a general rapporteur on children, I am involved in protecting children’s rights. I should also declare that this is a logical continuation of the One in Five campaign, to which the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has dedicated its activities in recent years.
Continual exposure to material of a sexual character changes children’s personality, behaviour and lives. “Mini Miss” competitions have girls appear in low-cut tops and mini shorts, so that they appear to be small copies of beauty competition participants. Magazine covers often show young girls posing in a seductive, adult-like and vulgar manner, thus creating the image of a little Lolita as an idol for girls. The overall impact of this environment means that every day children see content that they cannot understand correctly or classify, but which nevertheless influences and “enlightens” them. At the same time it confuses and frightens them.
The influence of the mass media and so-called pop culture on public morality is crucial. By that I mean music videos, movies, cartoons and images of celebrities and stars who use erotica as a tool for attracting attention. In children’s minds this forms the exact opposite perception of life, with a system of values that is different from the one promoted by their parents and schools. As a result, there are two systems of values and culture in a child’s mind and they are in a constant struggle. Children whose personalities are still in the initial phase of formation learn to think that sexuality is the basic quality of a person and that it determines their success or failure, and they do not realise how damaging that approach is. They only understand, even if it happens unconsciously, that this is the norm in their society and that they should form their identity accordingly.
The rapporteur was absolutely correct to point to the role of the advertising industry in the over-sexualisation of children. Indeed, studies have confirmed that there is a direct connection between media consumption and perverse sexual behaviour, and a clear relationship between sexual promiscuity and nervous disorders. If a child is bombarded with sexual content from an early age, later on they will be disorientated as a teenager.
These problems cannot be considered separately from one another, and we have to draw a distinction between sexual education, both in families and in schools, and the imposition of stereotype of sexual behaviour by creating a healthy environment for children through action taken at all levels – in families, in schools and with children themselves.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Fataliyeva.
It is nearly 5 p.m. Do any members still wish to vote in the election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights?
I see that one colleague still wishes to vote. After he has done so, the ballot for electing a judge will be closed.
The counting of votes will take place under the supervision of the tellers, Mr Fournier and Mr Garðarsson. I invite them to go at once to meet behind the President’s chair.
If possible, the result of the election will be announced at the end of the debate.
We will now return to the debate on the over-sexualisation of children. I call Mr Jónasson.
Mr JÓNASSON (Iceland, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – This report and its recommendations address an extremely important subject: the sexualisation of children in the media for commercial and other purposes. I thank the rapporteur, Mr Ghiletchi, for taking up the subject and providing us with the report and its recommendations. He is right to suggest that the first step should be to map out the consequences of such practices by collecting data in order to define appropriate measures to resort to.
I note that the report references changes in the law and supervision by the authorities. Here, of course, questions arise. The rapporteur says in the report’s summary, inter alia: “Activities by the media and advertising sector should be restricted by law and supervised by specialised bodies”. It is stated and emphasised that all such intervention should be based on scientific research. In my view, however, the problem is that we are in an area that is bound to be subjective, to some extent, and open to interpretation. Granting extensive powers to supervisory bodies to restrict the media could lead us into a grey zone. I agree, however, that we must rally to the defence of children, and find ways and means of doing so. We must never forget that the victims are not the media or an aggressive advertising industry but innocent children who are in danger of being exploited and misused. Here I am in full agreement with the rapporteur.
The rapporteur is right that awareness raising campaigns are needed in society at large, in the home, in schools, in the media and—I want to emphasise this—in the advertising industry. Co-operation will be important, and so there should be a forum for co-operation and advisory work. Let us remember that in the heyday of vigilante consumerism in the United States in the 1960s, with Ralph Nader at the helm it was information and awareness raising that fuelled successful campaigns, not coercion.
I thank the rapporteur for the report, but the steps we take should be based on co-operation rather than coercion.
(Ms Mateu, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)
Ms BARTOS (Hungary, spokesperson for the European People’s Party) – On behalf of the EPP group, I thank Mr Ghiletchi for bringing this important issue to our attention.
There is no doubt that the physical and mental health of our children is a priority for us all, as parents and as decision makers who have a sense of and assume responsibility for our societies. The health and well-being of our children will have an impact on the health and well-being of future societies, and will determine the future of all mankind.
We live in an accelerating modern world. With its advantages and blessings, progress has made our lives easier, but it also poses a threat and could be a danger to us and to our children. We are in a difficult situation, as the older generations—including our own—and parents and teachers are not able to keep up with the speed of technological progress. As a result, the generation gap is widening. We can succeed in the fight against these harmful effects only if we are up to date and include all groups able to address the issue. We need to rely on families, schools, educators, teachers, the media, Internet service providers, civil society and decision makers. Moreover, we need to rely on our children.
The existence of an international legal environment and the capacity of nation States to act are indispensable. The report highlights the importance of this issue with regard to children’s human rights, and the dramatic consequences of over-sexualisation on children’s well-being, relationships, self-esteem and physical and mental health. It also highlights the importance of legislation, the behaviour of the media, the judicial framework, the role of supervisory institutions and procedures, and the priority role of education. We must educate children and empower them to develop critical attitudes towards media content. Why? Certain behaviours in early life that are worrying, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, drug abuse and difficulties in sexual behaviour, often appear to be due to the influence and pressure of peers of the same age. Trained contemporaries can help friends and classmates, and serve as role models for the creation of a viable norm for a given age group. That is just one example of the importance of education.
This report, of great relevance, deals with a complex issue of great significance. Its topic is a phenomenon that determines the well-being and future of our children, who are the next generation. Its final aim is the protection of our children.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (France, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – President, colleagues, children are vulnerable. They also represent our future. It is therefore incumbent on us to do everything we can so that they can develop optimally and we can guarantee respect for their rights and ensure their protection. The exposing of children to inappropriate sexual content and the sexualisation of children themselves compromise children’s budding identities and relationships. When it leads to sexual violence, over-sexualisation can seriously jeopardise children’s physical and mental health. In that respect, I remind the Assembly that the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse—the Lanzarote Convention—makes it incumbent on member States to prevent sexual violence against children. Member States have to protect child victims and prosecute perpetrators.
The Socialist Group supports the draft resolution, which sets out important objectives, and, in order to meet them, suggests a holistic approach with a variety of different actors, including children themselves. The measures proposed on the media and advertising, and also on awareness raising and education, are important for achieving equality of opportunity between men and women. Adverts in particular constantly impart gender stereotypes, if not caricatures, often with sexual connotations, thus presenting young girls and boys with fixed and often inappropriate role models, which can have a profound and lasting impact on how children see themselves and persons of the opposite sex.
Equality of opportunity is important not just between sexes but between different social milieux. In that regard, as the draft resolution suggests, the education children receive from their parents at home must be supplemented by external input. Indeed, as the report says, in many cultural contexts children are still confronted with family and community attitudes in which sexuality and relationship education are taboos, while the surrounding media environment is flooded with sexualised and sexually explicit pictures.
Schools, as public institutions, are a privileged forum for guaranteeing sex education for all. Information from outside the family circle is also essential for the prevention of sexual abuse, which is most often perpetrated within the close confines of the family. Far from leading to over-sexualisation, sex education and relationship education give children the tools they need to confront those situations. Quality sex education also has proven benefits for public health, as we have just heard from the UN special rapporteur.
Our amendments seek to strengthen the text and therefore give strength to the children to whom we wish to afford better protection.
Mr SCHNABEL (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – On behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I would like to express our grave reservations about the report’s content and recommendations, which in our opinion are insufficiently supported by scientific evidence. Paragraph 4.1 of the draft resolution urges member States to “gather scientific evidence through longitudinal studies on the effects of the inappropriate over-sexualisation of children…in order to help define appropriate legislative and political measures”, but in paragraphs 4.2 to 4.9 a whole catalogue of such measures is presented ready to be adopted right now. In our opinion, that is awkward.
It is even more awkward to ask for evidence of what throughout the report is already presented as evident. Let us face it: the report presents as empirical fact something that is at best a hypothesis, but is actually more a moral judgment and at worst is nothing more than a prejudice. The report’s focus, in my opinion, has hardly anything to do with the indeed hideous crimes that Ms de Boer-Buquicchio so vividly described a few minutes ago. The concept of over-sexualisation is unclear to me, as it is to the rapporteur, who in the report sometimes calls it “inappropriate over-sexualisation”. One is tempted to ask whether there is an appropriate alternative; the rapporteur would say that there is not. He equates over-sexualisation with sexualisation per se, things that are not age appropriate and finally even with “young girls wearing pretty clothes and make-up”.
In the opinion of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, we do not need reports that confound moral prejudice and human – in this case, children’s – rights. In many countries, children, adolescents and adults are still suffering the unhealthy consequences of a long history of what we might call under-sexualisation. They would be helped greatly by government provision of a sexual health policy that makes sound and positive sexual education a normal part of the school curriculum, gives young people access to good contraception and helps to protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. I fear that the present report will be put aside by governments that already do such things and welcomed by governments that are actually failing to enhance the sexual health of their children and adolescents. The Assembly will not help such children in any way by giving support to what we might call over-moralisation.
The PRESIDENT* – Does the rapporteur wish to respond to the speakers now? No. In that case, let us continue with the list of speakers. I call Ms Åberg.
Ms ÅBERG (Sweden) – I thank the rapporteur for highlighting this important issue. There is a saying that goes, “Don’t build a fence around the pool. Instead, teach your children to swim”. The same goes for the information that we get daily from newspapers, TV, advertisements and of course, the Internet. Even if we in Sweden give very close scrutiny to what is allowed to be displayed in official media and have a ban on advertisements with individuals – regardless of age – represented as sexual objects, we cannot claim that our children are protected. Such information is no further than a few clicks away, and banning some types of shows guarantees that there will be interest in watching them.
We therefore need to teach children to review critically the content of what they are watching. It is also important that parents are available to answer their questions about sex, even if they may feel uncomfortable about doing so. Something is terribly wrong when young people get their perceptions of sex through watching pornographic material. A survey in Sweden shows that 57% of girls and 91% of boys aged 15 have watched porn. A serious discussion about pornography is needed – that it is not real and has nothing to do with love.
Schools are an excellent forum for such discussions. In Swedish schools, sexual education has been compulsory since the 1950s, when it was about risks, venereal diseases and reproduction. The sexual education of today starts even in nursery school by, for example, giving children the names of body parts, or talking about how children are conceived in relation to someone gaining a sibling. In Sweden, we think it is important to teach children at a young age that even two persons of the same sex can fall in love with each other, have children together and get married. It is a mistake to wait too long before starting sexual education. Children generally reach puberty when they are 11 or 12 years old, which is why it is too late to talk about puberty for the first time when they enter high school. Information, discussion and education at different stages of children’s development is the primary way of handling the issue of the over-sexualisation of children, not new, ineffective and even counter-productive prohibitions.
Ms BLONDIN (France)* – In our societies, as the rapporteur has rightly said, the protection of children should be an absolute priority. The over-sexualisation of children in the media, marketing campaigns, television programmes and merchandising is a constant concern and we should be highly vigilant of it. It is only one manifestation of the over-sexualisation of our societies as a whole. In general, we are all faced with imagery laden with sexuality, and images of people are reduced to their simplest form. Yet the issue of over-sexualisation should not contribute to the increase of retrograde views rebelling against the liberalisation of bodies and customs.
The over-sexualisation of children is more a symptom of the society around them, which projects such perceptions upon them. This phenomenon may exert an influence on the way in which children perceive themselves and understand the codes of our society. In addition, access to the internet and social networks, including among the youngest children, fosters access to pornographic or suggestive imagery, which may prompt some children to mimic inappropriate behaviour and put them in danger.
We should not be moralistic, but we none the less need to find solutions for these problems. One such response should be legislative. A charter of good conduct could be signed by those in the media and economic players to encourage them to respect the dignity of children. Moreover, preventive work is essential. Civil society, parents, associations and educational staff should be alerted to and trained about these issues. In France, a report by the Haut Conseil à l’Egalité recommends teaching about sexuality that is better tailored to young people. The rapporteur referred to teachers and external players who could raise awareness among young people, particularly about the risks of social networks and the internet. To make one last point – picking up what was said at the start – all this preventive work to warn children will be effective only if the whole of society works to desexualise our relationship with our bodies.
Ms STEFANELLI (San Marino)* – Thank you, Mr Ghiletchi, for this very comprehensive report. The protection of children and childhood against sexual exploitation and violence, paedophile pornography and even acts such as selling children for sexual purposes should be a question of paramount importance for all states and governments. Any community that does not protect its weakest members – those, such as children, who are unable to defend themselves – does not only deny them their future, but denies itself its future.
It is very important to prevent such aberrations. In your report, Mr Ghiletchi, you provide some pointers about how to do so by referring to the phenomenon of the over-sexualisation of children, as well as the excessive exposure of children in the media. There is excessive use of children in advertising for fashion and other products, showing – I would say, using – the young bodies of children in poses that adopt an aesthetic approach more suitable for adults. In other words, these children are served up on a plate for sick minds. I therefore support your report, as well as the draft resolution, which is to be put to a vote.
Ms de Boer-Buquicchio’s excellent contribution also leads me to another thought, which I would like to share with all the parliamentarians here. I am talking about the sale and the sexual exploitation of children who do not exist: ghost children. Estimates suggest that there are as many as 51 million of these children. Two out of three children in sub-Saharan Africa are not registered by their family when they are born, either because they do not know that it has to be done or because, for financial reasons, they cannot support the cost of travelling to distant offices where children are registered.
Legally speaking, these children are invisible. The lack of official registration makes them even more vulnerable from a very young age and they are more likely to become involved in various types of abuse: sexual abuse, prostitution and, even in our own beautiful European cities, recruitment for the armed forces; we have all heard about child soldiers, child labour or early forced marriage.
This is why it is very important that the Council of Europe tackles this problem, perhaps via the launch of an awareness-raising campaign, even if it does not actually provide specific support. Some private entities have already done this in different member States, but it would send an even more powerful message if a noble institution such as the Council of Europe, which is committed to protecting children, did so with its own voice.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you Ms Stefanelli. I now call upon Mr Ardelean of Romania. He is not here, so I call Mr Gopp of Liechtenstein.
Mr GOPP (Liechtenstein)* – Rapporteur, the report touches on an important and yet controversial subject. I can support many things that you say, but not everything. When reading the title, some questions spontaneously occurred to me. Why, for example, do we say “over”-sexualisation when talking about children? To my mind it is an exaggeration that is not called for. What are we talking about? We are talking about images that are being imparted increasingly to young people today. We are talking about sexting, for example, using social media. We are talking about clothing that makes sexual objects of our children. We are talking about easy access to sexist, if not pornographic, images.
The speed with which the media landscape has evolved in recent years is huge. New media are emerging, with ad hoc communication strategies that can have far-reaching consequences. Also, social structures are evolving, including within the family. Both parents are very often active professionally, and the quality of time spent in the family has altered. At the same time, other external influences are increasing, such as peer pressure, which can bring in its retinue risky forms of behaviour.
Exchanges over content or the laying down of some educational principles have acquired a different quality. The responsibility remains with the parents; they are responsible for indicating dangers, laying down certain principles and averting children from certain dangers. Teaching staff – teachers or other educational people – also have a responsibility when it comes to the education of children. However, we cannot change anything if we believe that with data collections we can come up with some kind of empirical proof; and we will not change very much if we believe that, with legislation on the Internet, which is a global phenomenon, we can do anything at all.
These developments bring dangers for our young people, and we seriously need to consider what we can do, but I challenge the idea that the majority of young people do not have the common sense required to protect themselves against this kind of risk. I also have doubts about what is considered to be sexualised and about the idea that in 47 member States of the Council of Europe we can come up with a single form of consensus on this issue.
We could help parents and other caring professionals in these worrying times if we enabled them to carry out their tasks in an increasingly complex world. We need to start with education and educational provision rather than trying to legislate or to moralise the debate, which will get us nowhere.
Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – Dear ladies and gentlemen, like my colleagues I thank Mrs de Boer-Buquicchio, United Nations Special Rapporteur, for the excellent report, and for the informative discussion in our committee meeting, which shone a spotlight on the ever-growing need for more education and for coercive measures and efforts internationally.
When it comes to issues related to human nature, there should be no borders, only values and our genuine intention to protect our future generations. In the modern world, we observe in our societies a high level of sexualisation in visual materials, commercials and the media. A restriction on media is necessary but should be balanced with media freedom. A big part of media freedom is financial independence, otherwise they fall into the hands of oligarchs and financial groups, which use them to meddle and interfere in political affairs.
Most countries have existing media and advertising supervisory bodies, and there is no need to set up new ones as the report originally suggested. I therefore support the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee in approving at its meeting today the amendment in the name of Mr Jónasson and other colleagues, which resonates with the proposal that I made in the previous committee meeting in Paris. The proposal is that we should not create new regulators; rather, we should deregulate the job of protecting our child citizens against abusing media to ourselves – the civil sector, experts, NGOs, parent organisations and other stakeholders – by forming a special advisory body to advise the regulator. It is then up to the existing regulator to enforce the decision. I particularly advocate this idea, because in my country, Ukraine, we had a bad experience with the formal, separate regulator, which failed to perform to expectations and was abolished a year ago.
At the same time, telecom companies and Internet providers could introduce certain mechanisms to inspect their traffic. One mobile operator in Ukraine, for example, introduced a software application that bans sexual content embedded in mobile communication flows. Similarly, some social media companies could introduce their own tools based on customer feedback and voluntary contributions rather than mandatory monitoring and banning illegal content.
Although we have to be careful about balance, as I said earlier, efforts should be more sustainable and be enforced by the respective regulator. Educational and parental mentoring is extremely important and cannot be underestimated. Let us ask ourselves how often we talk to our children and try to understand their understanding and perception of materials with sexual content. Proper instructions must be in place and distributed. As the report says, the simple statement that pornography does not depict real sex but is pure fiction played out by actors can make a huge difference.
Mr BLANCHART (Belgium)* – Dear Madam President and colleagues, for many years now in Belgium, various stakeholders, particularly in education and health, have been sounding the alarm about the pernicious effects on child development of the over-sexualisation of society. Although the over-sexualisation of children in advertising is not a serious problem in Belgium, none the less they are targeted through marketing and are subjected to ubiquitous sexual images.
We are seeing the increasing eroticisation of society, with all sorts of commonplace objects being sexualised and increasing sexist behaviour making it more and more difficult to achieve gender equality. People’s criteria are geared towards appearance, with frivolity viewed as a priority. Children are subject to the influence of their parents, the social climate and the media, while the public space subjects young people to constant pressure – from advertising, music, videos, magazines, clothing trends, reality shows, the cinema and, of course, the Internet. The over-sexualisation of children also means the commoditisation of children, as seen in the rage for child beauty contests, now widespread across Europe. It is all driven by appearances. Given the correlation between media consumption practices and stereotypes, we must encourage media education and warn adults, teachers and society about the disastrous consequences of this phenomenon. We must develop critical thinking and place creativity and games at the heart of childhood. These are avenues to be explored together.
Lastly, governments must raise awareness among key players of the over-sexualisation of children and how it reinforces stereotypes. In combating the sexualisation of the public space, there is a temptation to call on public authorities to intervene, but it would be an illusion to seek to regulate the advertising and media industries, or even pornography – especially on the Internet – or to legislate for sexual egalitarianism. If the State can intervene, it is as an educator. It is not necessarily for parliamentarians to protect society but for parents and adults to do so through dialogue. Prevention is the best tool for enabling young people to come to terms with the digital world.
Ms DALLOZ (France)* – I congratulate the rapporteur on his work on the over-sexualisation of children and the means of preventing it. The use of sexualised images of children in the media and in advertising and the exposure of children to erotic or pornographic images need to be better regulated. In France, images of children have been regulated, especially in advertising, since 1990. Legally, it is possible to prohibit sexualised images of children, but in practice there have been few sentences – regrettably, respect for artistic creation makes tribunals and courts tolerant – while some parents seem unaware of what constitutes an inappropriate image of their children. We have not been sufficiently seized of this matter.
I am pleased that France is in the avant-garde – for example, the prohibition of “Mini Miss” competitions for under-13s. As a result of excessive mediatisation, children have become spectators at home and in public of images not adapted to their age. The regulation of images in the media, especially on television, should be a priority. The Superior Audiovisual Council in France has set out age ratings, but these can be effective only when an adult is present to change the channel – the growth of reality shows at times when children can be alone is a particular problem. We must also think about the broadcasting of highly sexualised video clips during the daytime.
The key point is the absence of online regulation. Pornographic images are often downloaded from the Internet, where certain sexual practices – often called games – have also developed. These sites can be based in distant countries that have values far from our own. Despite the insufficient regulation, we should state clearly what is harmful to children, and human dignity and the best interests of the child should be at the heart of our considerations. The French justice system has long recognised that if this key notion – the child’s best interests – were respected, we could end these inappropriate images. For all these reasons, I call on you to vote for Mr Ghiletchi’s resolution.
Ms RAWERT (Germany)* – Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I thank the rapporteur and, in particular, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio for her contribution.
As the report points out, the problem is not school education on sexual diversity but how clichés about sexual identity are portrayed in the media, but the report should have focused more on this distinction. Moreover, it refers only to young girls and sets aside the question of physical and psychological damage. Another weakness is that the problem of the over-sexualisation of children is not limited to the media. The report also plays down the over-sexualisation of young boys and the effect on them of the over-sexualisation of girls.
Obviously, boys and girls are affected equally by sexualisation, yet male over-sexualisation is not addressed in the report, which focuses on unrealistic sexualised images of girls and young women and how they treat their bodies. It addresses neither the violence that can be awakened in boys and young men by unrealistic sexual images of men nor the psychological and physical damage that can be caused to young boys – for example, if they take anabolic steroids to build up their body mass. On violence against men, women and queer people, the over-sexualised representation of masculinity represents men as homophobic, emotionless and sexually aggressive towards women – this masculinity can be linked to male violence, such as the attacks in Orlando.
The report often slips into patriarchal thinking, which we should remove, and refers primarily to sexuality in the private sphere. It seems to see parents as the most important reference for children when it comes to sexuality, but sex education, which we had when we were children, has to be adapted to future needs. To do this, we need a positive approach when it comes to sexuality in the media and schools, and a comprehensive approach to sex education, as the UN Special Rapporteur just said. Finally, the report treats homosexuality, bisexuality, trans-sexuality and other queer identities as a complete taboo, while the way it describes children and young adults falls far short of what we need in terms of sexual identity.
Ms CROZON (France)* – I thank the rapporteur for the report, which draws the attention of the Assembly to the over-sexualisation of children.
We are not grappling with exactly the same issues in France, where the access of minors to images that could shock them is strictly regulated and the representation of children as sexual objects is met with the most absolute legal and moral condemnation. The latest instance of children being dressed up as objects of desire, the “Mini Miss” contests for children, which have just been mentioned, were the subject of a regulatory clampdown in 2014 with the law on equality between men and women.
Despite that, in France, as you have found elsewhere, the external signs of sexualisation among – for the most part – young girls, such as make-up, jewellery and figure-hugging or revealing clothing, are appearing at an ever earlier age. As you rightly highlighted, those trends are a response to ever more intrusive marketing demands. We live in societies where the image is king and where the models for children are less and less taken from their family or social group and increasingly taken from media culture and the real or fictional characters who enter our homes on a daily basis.
The obsession with all things youthful, particularly on the part of media-savvy children, which concentrates on one single generation, produces not only a truncated representation of society, but certain meanings and values – namely, the cult of the body or physical appearance being deemed a condition of social success. This is a model of sexual development that is increasingly a source of worry for young people, unless they are given an accompanying explanation. We are aware of the dangers: the dismissal of those who do not meet the grade or comply with the criteria; harassment; and unhealthy obsessions that lead to eating disorders, addictive behaviours or even suicide.
The report contains a number of common-sense proposals on the need to lay down rules for those who impart messages and on parental responsibility, but we should think above and beyond that about things such as how stereotypes come about, the role of men and women in the media, and the sexualised roles to which this gives rise. It is important that we promote other models of success, particularly female models of success – female entrepreneurs, female scientists, female writers and journalists. It is important to show that, irrespective of one’s physical appearance and age, everyone has a role to play in our society.
The PRESIDENT* – Mr Jakavonis is not here, so I call Mr John Howell.
Mr HOWELL (United Kingdom) – I want to raise a number of points that I fear might otherwise be lost in this report. The main one is the role of parents. Paragraph 4.3 of the draft resolution suggests that we “adopt policies…that seek to inform, educate and remind parents about the dangers that their children face in an over-sexualised environment…and equip parents to educate their children”. That speaks of a strong role for parents, to which I will return, and I think it should go further.
Much of the report is about compelling advertisers and Internet providers to comply with its recommendations. That approach, too, needs to be looked at again. It tends to see advertisers and Internet providers as being unwilling to help. From my experience, that is not true. Something that is more likely to help is reaching voluntary agreements with them, as these can go further. It could be agreed that they will provide better ways for parents to complain to a regulator. Of course, that means that there has to be a regulator, and one that has teeth, but it places control back in the hands of parents. It could be agreed that Internet providers will give prompts to parents that enable them to switch on parental controls. That is essential in restoring the role of parents in tackling this problem. There are a number of measures that could include a whole range of providers in solving this problem, including the providers of clothing, products and services to children. Most importantly, we need to make parents’ voices heard.
I hope that what has happened in the UK can point the way. After 18 months of trying what I have just advocated, there have been a number of improvements. There are now fewer advertisements that use highly sexualised imagery involving children and it is easier to find children’s clothes that are appropriate for their age and do not seek to advance their years. Finally, there are much better ways for parents to make complaints and to help children in using media. The report is very good at pointing out the role that is played by the media in pushing over-sexualised images.
The role of parents in this matter is crucial. I acknowledge that the report mentions this role, but I would like to stress it. My children are now grown up, and when they were growing up, these problems were not so evident. How we can encourage parents to see this as their problem is at the heart of this issue. We need to look to parents, rather than the state, to take up this challenge.
The PRESIDENT* – Ms Günay is not here, so I call Baroness Massey.
Baroness MASSEY (United Kingdom) – I welcome the report and thank Mr Ghiletchi for presenting it.
The sexualisation of children concerns all countries. The Internet and social media are, of course, wonderful things, but they have their downside. Children can suffer intolerably from Internet bullying and from being exposed to sexual images, which can distort their view of relationships. Such images are particularly invidious in their portrayal of girls and women, but they also affect male attitudes towards women, as was discussed by Ms Rawert.
The British Parliament has tried to influence the government to be more strict in its regulation of the media, the Internet and marketing, and some progress has been made. For example, age verification will be considered in an upcoming Bill on the digital economy, which will require compliance from pornographic websites. However, there is more to do. For example, one of my colleagues has introduced an online safety Bill in the House of Lords. Online pornography comes to Britain primarily from sites in other jurisdictions. The Authority for Television On Demand report, “For Adults Only?”, states that of 25 websites in the UK, 23 are located abroad. We need to tackle this problem, perhaps by cutting off income streams or through licensing. Adult filters must be provided by Internet service providers.
Another problem that we have is sexting – the sharing of sexual imagery online. It has been described as an epidemic, with many young people suffering distress. However, teenagers are often too embarrassed to seek help and instead hide their distress, which can result in depression, guilt and self-harm. School work can also suffer significantly.
The report speaks of education to combat over-sexualisation, and I agree with Ms Åberg and others on this issue. Personal, social and health education, including sex and relationships education, is important for boys and girls. It can help young people to understand and combat pressure. Boys who watch sexualised images become part of the problem. Their attitude towards girls and women may become negative and distorted. Such education can help to develop positive relationships, self-esteem and communication skills.
I know that it can be difficult to persuade schools to engage with this issue and that some parents are reluctant to talk about sexual matters with their children. We are therefore leaving many young people at the mercy of negative portrayals of sexuality in relationships and under-confident about resisting such influences. This is an issue of self-protection and children’s rights; it is about promoting healthy relationships and healthy attitudes to sexuality in girls and boys.
Ms KARAMANLI (France)* – I am delighted to speak in this debate on fighting the over-sexualisation of children, which is an important and sensitive issue. I would call it a societal issue in the truest sense of the word. I commend the timeliness and balance of the rapporteur’s report.
I will focus on three points and three proposals. The first is that over-sexualisation is accompanied by the objectification and commoditisation of bodies. It nurtures sexism and alienates minds and bodies. The over-sexualisation of children entraps kids at a young age and makes them dependent on behaviours of which they have no understanding. They are then unable to discern whether these tastes and longings are suitable. There is a copycat element that unites the like-minded by means of looking alike – the same role models, the same gear and the same behaviour copied from others who are as young or not quite as young. This fashion seeks to blur appearances while maintaining social differences, particularly between genders – women must please; boys must be seductive. Ultimately, young people may no longer be capable of being themselves, their bodies diverging from the standard, or of developing sexually fulfilling relationships in an age-appropriate manner. In other words, they risk developing an enduring psychological malaise that they can never get over. Reality TV shows inadvertently admit as much: these are not people but machines.
There are three proposals we need to develop to deal with this. Media education is needed to ensure that the industry that profits from this over-sexualisation contributes to the cost of training and information, and also creates resources for shared good practice to benefit those who wish to promote a comprehensive approach to the development of children and young people. These suggestions clearly overlap with what the recommendations advocate. Media education should not be viewed as an auxiliary matter, but should be part of a comprehensive approach, devised and steered hand in hand with basic learning. We need to provide the time and space for at least a few years. We also need to place an emphasis on practice, relying on professional partnerships and developing the training of specialist teachers.
At the same time, there is a need to start reflecting on ways and means of promoting different images and perspectives. There is a rationale to develop, according to which those who make money from manifestations, publications and exchanges that dress children up in a sexualised fashion should contribute to redressing the balance through various educational practices and campaigns about the image of children and should also finance research into the effects of their business. The idea of a modest tax would contribute to this objective. Lastly, we need not just to develop best practice to thwart such over-sexualisation, but to tap into it and share it, by creating a sort of suggestions box or platform on the net to make it possible to make the most of what is being done and offer it up for others to follow.
Thank you for listening to me with such keen attention.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Karamanli. I call Ms Sílvia Eloïsa Bonet from the Principality of Andorra.
Ms BONET (Andorra)* – I thank Ms de Boer-Buquicchio for her important report. I also thank Mr Ghiletchi for the important work he has done in his report.
The report talks about over-sexualisation, which is something that those countries that developed the One in Five campaign have been looking at. We are working on it in our Parliament. We have organised a conference on the sexual aspects of the impact of the Internet on young people. This is a topic that we have to look at from many angles, one of which is the education of young people and adolescents in schools. This is a topic that cannot be dealt with in isolation. You cannot have boys on the one hand and girls on the other; everything has to be done jointly, because joint work allows them to form realistic perceptions of each other – men vis-à-vis women and vice versa.
I have got two kids. One is almost 16 and one is 10. Once I saw the 16-year-old looking at pornographic illustrations. My reaction at the time was one of tremendous surprise. I started talking to him about the significance and meaning of these pornographic images. What was their content? What was lying behind them? I think he got the idea, or at least I understood as much, and he told me that at school they were developing activities to try to get boys and girls to talk about their perceptions of each other, including their sexual perceptions of each other.
We spend session after session in the Council of Europe talking about the need for gender equality and the image of women. If we look at television, we see that we are constantly sold a highly sexualised image of women. Today somebody in the committee talked about that and said that most film directors and most series present a distorted image of women, and that is what young people perceive. We have to work on this from a global perspective, with a series of actions aimed at different environments, including the family environment, although parents may have different conceptions. I am always talking with my children about programmes that are not suitable because their content does not present an accurate vision of what sexual relations are, what love is and what couples do, whereas others consider it normal, so we need ways of finding what is correct and what is not. We have to try to help.
Mr G. DAVIES (United Kingdom) – The over-sexualisation of children is primarily about the over-sexualisation of young girls and the stereotypical way in which women are portrayed in all our media – in advertising and marketing, as we have heard, but also in Hollywood films, which shape and champion the expectations of boys and girls. It is no surprise to discover that only one in three speaking roles goes to women in feature films and a third of those are sexualised. I am not talking about pornography; I am talking about mainstream Hollywood films. Women are portrayed as appendages to men, helping them to succeed – as sort of Barbie doll people – and there are virtually no examples of women talking to women in an intelligent way.
Why is this? In 2014, it was found that something like 2% of directors, 11% of writers and 19% of producers were women, while women made up just 17% of those in the crowd scenes and 22% of working people. The portrayal of women by men is endemic and at the root of this problem. In these films we see women making up 10% of politicians and lawyers, only 5% of judges and professors and 4% of sports people. What we have had rammed down our throats continuously is this stereotypical Barbie-type woman – an image that is reinforced for boys from a young age.
Women do slightly better in professional life, making up around 17% of politicians in the US Congress, law partners and tenured professionals in the United States – we do slightly better in Europe – but what do professional women actors like Keira Knightley and Emma Watson get on their 18th birthday? They get journalists coming up and taking shots up their skirts, to show that these are not real women but sexual objects for the media to look at.
We need to expose these numbers so that we can put pressure on the industry to ensure equal representation and also encourage women to be portrayed as sensible, intelligent, thoughtful and inquiring in their interactions with men, so that we do not just portray their love and beauty, but also portray their wisdom and bravery, which men claim a monopoly over. It is time to act. It is all very well to take a paternalist approach to the sexualisation of young women – something I agree with – but we need to confront the root cause and not pretend that there is not an endemic problem that needs radical action now.
Ms LOUHELAINEN (Finland) – The power of commercialism, marketing and mass media affects all children from an early age. Images of a perfect world within everyone’s reach are conveyed by movies and TV shows and are often accompanied by numerous related side-products. For girls, certain beauty and behavioural norms are created through marketing and mass media.
Research suggests that this might have a negative impact on the self-esteem of children and young persons. We know that there are many challenging and vulnerable phases in childhood. Protecting children from such modern phenomena as social media, increased violence in movies, TV and video games, and the over-sexualisation of children is difficult.
Finnish children have a rather good knowledge of the dangers of the Internet. Media and information literacy is seen as a civic competence that is important from an early age. Children’s ability to critically analyse what they watch, hear and read is vital, particularly with regard to misinformation on the Internet, which is difficult even for adults to filter. Finland already has nearly 100 organisations promoting media and information literacy, in addition to media education in formal education settings, youth work, libraries and other public cultural services.
The importance of media and information literacy is emphasised in several national policies. Media education is promoted by governmental authorities. The National Audiovisual Institute has a legal obligation to promote media education, children’s media skills and the development of a safe media environment for children. In addition, it supervises the provision of audiovisual programmes in Finland. The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority monitors and issues guidelines on suitable marketing for minors. Additionally, the rights of all Finnish children are monitored by the ombudsman for children. Finnish police are active on social media to enhance their visibility and to tighten their interaction with the general public. Online presence is seen as part of the police’s preventive work.
A child’s play is a child’s work. Through play, children learn and develop their skills. Adults have a responsibility to support minors in obtaining the skills required for full participation in our media-saturated societies. However, our most important duty is to take an interest in the everyday activities of our children and youngsters, both on social media and in real life.
Ms GUNNARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – I thank everyone who has participated in this debate. All children have the right to a safe and constructive childhood. They have the right to grow up and develop in a natural way so that they become adults capable of having normal social relationships and becoming active citizens in a democratic society. Sadly, this is not the case for many children across the world. Such children have to live with various threats, insecurity and, in some cases, indescribable horror. We have an obligation to direct our attention to the situation of those children and to do everything in our power to change their circumstances.
The over-sexualisation of children, particularly girls, involves them being portrayed in a sexual context. This over-sexualisation can be seen in many places in our daily lives, both directly and indirectly. Its worst manifestations emerge in the porn industry. We know how advertisements often portray children in a sexual context, sometimes in a coarse but very subtle way and sometimes in the form of grotesque photos that can stimulate the lowest impulses. In other cases, standard gender images are emphasised and sanctified.
The sexes are, of course, not identical and each should be respected in its own way, but when girls are constantly getting the message that they are, first and foremost, sexual beings who are beautiful and sexy to men, it starts affecting their self-esteem, which can decrease their chances of developing a normal and healthy self-image and life, as well as affecting their performance in education and career-building later in life, not to mention their mental health. It is very important that member States of the Council of Europe are encouraged to dig deeper into over-sexualisation by adopting appropriate legislation to eradicate this disgrace and by educating the public on how to fight the over-sexualisation of children. The Lanzarote Convention will be a powerful defence mechanism if it is implemented and enforced.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. That brings our list of speakers to an end. Ms de Boer-Buquicchio, would you like to respond to the debate?
Ms de BOER-BUQUICCHIO (UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography) – I will be brief because a lot has already been said and I do not want to repeat the many important points that have been made. The bottom line is that children are confronted with images in which they are portrayed with excessive emphasis on their appearance, with the message being particularly conveyed to girls that they are inferior to men. Those manifestations appear in the advertising, film, fashion and music industries, so there is clearly a need to address the issue globally by discussing and reflecting on the root causes of these manifestations.
I emphasise the important role of education, and I recommend that people consult the remarkable UNESCO global guidance on sexuality education, which is based on scientifically accurate, realistic and non-judgmental information. I will not address how media and private industry, including ICT, should be controlled – I do not think they should be controlled – but I agree with a number of speakers who said that there should be some kind of grievance mechanism that, combined with the corporate social responsibility that private actors should be assuming with the assistance of the UN guidelines, will bring about better safeguards and protections for children. The over-sexualisation of children carries a serious risk of sexual abuse and exploitation, about which we should be concerned. Children are not commodities and should not be used in any way to serve sexual desires or aspirations. Society should protect children against such scourges. Children themselves have something to say about that, and promoting their sense of agency and their capacity to protect themselves should be reinforced by the support that we, as adults, provide them.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call the rapporteur to reply. You have four minutes left.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I thank all those who have spoken in this debate. I have tried to listen very carefully. I sometimes wish that we could have these debates before we adopt the final version of our reports, because good points have been made. I particularly thank the UN Special Rapporteur, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio, for endorsing the report. Her presence here is very important, and the experience she has shared today is relevant. I also thank Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, the General Rapporteur on Children. Having such support sends a clear message that the report was needed and is relevant to our member States.
I want to pick up a couple of issues that were mentioned. First, I want to express my regret and disappointment that the representative of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe said on his group’s behalf that we should not adopt the report. He criticised it as introducing a moral code. However, I can assure the Assembly that the report was produced in the spirit of the Lanzarote Convention, the successful convention that was signed and ratified by member States. As Ms de Boer-Buquicchio said, the report is about prosecution and responsibilities, and those points come from the convention. I do not understand the attitude expressed on behalf of ALDE, but whatever.
Mr Jónasson and Mr Kiral mentioned media coercion. The change that we agreed made the language in the report softer, which was a good compromise, but as has been mentioned, the media have responsibilities, so we cannot ignore the sector. We need to be balanced, because freedom of expression and freedom of the media are important, but what the media do, especially in marketing campaigns, is sometimes inappropriate. I regret the fact that my use of the word “inappropriate” was totally misunderstood.
I was glad that Mr Howell stressed the importance of the role of parents. As I mentioned in my earlier speech, there are different views about the role that parents should play, but I think there is common ground that they do have a role. We need to help them so that they empower children. Nor must we neglect the role of teachers and school education. Parents and education together are like two hands protecting, helping and guiding our children. I hope that the report and the draft resolution will be seen in that way.
I once again thank everyone who spoke in favour of the report. Some people might vote against it – of course, it is a free vote here in the Assembly – but I strongly believe that we need to send a message to our countries and our governments, including through the draft recommendation, that this issue needs to be taken on board. We cannot ignore an increasing trend in our modern Europe.
The PRESIDENT* – I call the Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. You have two minutes.
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – I, too, thank Ms de Boer-Buquicchio for being with us today and sharing her experience and knowledge.
I am glad that our committee had the opportunity to look into this important issue within the framework of the report. It has allowed us to complete our picture of the numerous and often shocking expressions and root causes of sexual violence against children, particularly girls. Their depiction as little Lolitas or objects of sexual desire does not correspond with their real age, and the omnipresence of such pictures in the media is certainly among the factors that lead to the sexual abuse of children. That is why the report is so important – children are often depicted in an over-sexualised way that is not age appropriate.
As the rapporteur underlined, we need to raise awareness of the issue at all levels, starting with children themselves and parents. We need to empower children effectively and make them understand the risks behind the modern trends that they meet in their daily environment, such as sexting and grooming. Starting from a very young age, children spend more time at school and with their friends than with their families, so it is crucial to provide children and young people with information about sexuality and relationships via social networks, which are so important to them, and via school curriculums. Educational programmes on sex and relationships should be part of the curriculum at a young age.
In addition to what is stated in the report, which I hope the Assembly will adopt in a moment, I would like all of us to keep in mind the need to reach out to children and improve sexuality and relationship education, especially as the Council of Europe has developed excellent tools for doing so under the so-called Pestalozzi programme. Only in that way will we be able to raise awareness of the issue and protect our children.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Ms Kyriakides.
The debate is closed.
The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has submitted a draft resolution to which four amendments have been tabled. It has also presented a draft recommendation to which no amendment has been tabled. The amendments will be dealt with in the order in which they apply to the resolution. I remind colleagues that speaking time on each amendment is limited to 30 seconds.
We come first to Amendment 4. I call Baroness Massey to support the amendment.
Baroness MASSEY (United Kingdom) – Sexualised images may be mainly of girls, but they affect boys as well. They may result in negative attitudes to girls and women, who become seen as objects. That could eventually lead to violence against women. The problem affects all our children, boys as well as girls.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Ghiletchi.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – Data are data, and the use of the term “particularly girls” has nothing to do with stigmatising girls or women. The expert at our committee presented data showing that girls are more vulnerable than boys, and the American Psychological Association has research showing the same thing. The point of having that term in paragraph 1 of the draft resolution is to raise awareness of that fact. For that reason, I ask colleagues to vote against the amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee is against.
The PRESIDENT* – I shall now put the amendment to the vote.
The vote is open.
Amendment 4 is rejected.
The PRESIDENT* – We come to Amendment 1. I call Ms Maury Pasquier to support the amendment.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – The amendment is intended to strengthen the text of the resolution by stressing that one of the most problematic marketing approaches is the continual promotion of gender stereotypes. There are inappropriate, highly sexualised images of boys and girls.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Ghiletchi.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I would like to propose an oral sub-amendment. Given that there was a tight vote on the amendment in the committee, I propose to Ms Maury Pasquier and the Assembly that instead of “gender stereotypes”, we use the term “negative stereotypes”. That term seems more inclusive, and the report is about not gender stereotypes but the media more widely. Let us use a more inclusive term.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the mover of Amendment 1 on the oral sub-amendment?
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – The committee supported me on this: the amendment really should be about gender stereotypes. I do not support the oral sub-amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – Under Rule 34.7, I consider that the oral sub-amendment is not admissible.
What is the opinion of the committee on Amendment 1?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee is in favour.
The PRESIDENT* – I shall now put the amendment to the vote.
The vote is open.
Amendment 1 is adopted.
I call Ms Maury Pasquier to support Amendment 2. You have 30 seconds.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – The idea here is to replace paragraph 4.4, which is rather vague, with something that is really in line with all international experts and their recommendations. They consider that this concept of sex and relationship education programmes is crucial. It is well received by the Council of Europe and by member States, and we believe that a reference to it should be in this paragraph, which talks about schooling in general.
The PRESIDENT* – I have been informed that Mr Ghiletchi wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in Amendment 2, delete the words “sex and relationship”.
Is that correct, Mr Ghiletchi?
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – Yes, it is correct.
The PRESIDENT* – In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules. However, do 10 or more members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated?
That is not the case. I therefore call Mr Ghiletchi to support his oral sub-amendment.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – The reason why I am proposing this oral sub-amendment is that the purpose of this report is to have targeted education programmes, with the aim of informing children about the realities of the everyday pressure that they face in the media, at school and in other social contexts, and of protecting them against any unwanted sexual attention. So it is better to stick with the words “targeted programmes” rather than to use the expression “sex and relationship education programmes”.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?
I call Ms Maury Pasquier to speak against the oral sub-amendment.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – I believe that when I explained the amendment I put forward arguments that indicate why I am opposed to the oral sub-amendment, because in this resolution there must be at least one reference to sex education in a school context. That really is the main thrust of my argument. All international organisations and experts who deal with the rights of the child would agree with that.
The PRESIDENT* – The committee is obviously in favour of the oral sub-amendment.
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee is in favour of the oral sub-amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – I will now put the oral sub-amendment to the vote.
The vote is open.
The oral sub-amendment is rejected.
We will now consider the main amendment, Amendment 2. Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 2?
I call Mr Ghiletchi on a point of order.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – Since the oral sub-amendment was not adopted, I point out that the committee has an opinion. I am against this amendment if the oral sub-amendment is not adopted. This was decided in the committee, so I think it is important for the Assembly to be informed of the decision of the committee.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee on the amendment?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee is against the amendment.
The PRESIDENT – I shall now put Amendment 2 to the vote.
The vote is open.
Amendment 2 is adopted.
I call Mr Jónasson to support Amendment 3. You have 30 seconds.
Mr JÓNASSON (Iceland) – This amendment proposes minor changes in the text, almost changes of nuance, but they are none the less important. First, instead of setting up new supervisory bodies, we encourage existing bodies to act. Secondly, we urge authorities to establish advisory bodies where they do not exist. We call them advisory bodies to emphasise the importance of co-operation and persuasion, rather than coercion.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee on the amendment?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee is in favour of the amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – I shall now put the amendment to the vote.
The vote is open.
Amendment 3 is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 14080, as amended. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open,.
The draft resolution in Document 14080, as amended, is adopted, with 69 votes for, 8 against and 5 abstentions.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 14080. A two-thirds majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 14080 is adopted, with 69 votes for, 8 against and 4 abstentions.
5. Election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights
The PRESIDENT* – I will now announce the result of the vote for a new judge to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the United Kingdom.
Number voting: 159
One ballot was null or void
158 valid votes
Absolute majority: 80
The votes cast were as follows:
Mr Tim Eicke: 94
Mr Murray Hunt: 17
Ms Jessica Simor: 47
Accordingly, Mr Eicke, having received an absolute majority of votes cast, is elected a judge of the European Court of Human Rights for a term of office of nine years starting on 7 September 2016 or at the latest three months following the date of his election.
(Ms Schou, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Mateu.)
6. Debate: Women in the armed forces: promoting equality, putting an end to gender-based violence
The PRESIDENT – We come now to the debate on the report entitled “Women in the armed forces: promoting equality, putting an end to gender-based violence” (Document 14073), presented by Ms Maryvonne Blondin on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. I remind members that speaking time is limited to three minutes. Ms Blondin, you have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between your presentation of the report and your reply to the debate.
Ms BLONDIN (France)* – This afternoon’s sitting is coming to a close and we have all heard a lot of speeches and worked very hard, but I plead with you to offer me a few more minutes of your attention. It is my great pleasure to present this report – an unusual one for our Assembly – on the situation of women in the armed forces. It is not customary for us in the Council of Europe to speak much about the armed forces, but in this case the issue is one of human rights, and of equality of genders and of professionals, which fits very well with the role and values of the Council of Europe. We therefore cannot ignore what goes on in the armed forces.
What is the context? Modern armed forces are being professionalised. Their missions are changing. They need staff, both women and men, and they need them to be competent women and men. These women come into a milieu that was created by and for men. As a result, the climate can be rather hostile for them, and quite propitious for harassment and abuse. Over the past four of five years, cases of sexual abuse and harassment in the armed forces in a number of countries have come to the fore and been covered by the media. The media took up those issues, as did civil society. Of course, not all difficulties are brought to light, but some are.
It is clear that the military mentality needs to be changed. How can the military mentality and conditions be changed with a view, inter alia, to improving the military careers of women, because it is clear that women are still represented only in small numbers at the higher levels of the military? Most strikingly, the average length of their military careers is half that of their male colleagues. One can reasonably ask why that is the case.
First of all, I think that it is absolutely necessary that the armed forces in various countries change their recruiting modes. They need to be less stereotypical and much more open. My two study trips – the first was to Oslo and Norway in general, and the second was to Brussels – confirmed that. Norway has a very innovative policy in this area. NATO, through its Resolution 1325, has defined a number of very specific action plans in this area of women’s security and peace. They need to change the way they recruit.
Above all, the armed forces must change mentalities, which of course is easier said than done – it will take some time. The military hierarchy must be made aware of the need to do this, from the very highest level right down to the lowest, and that is not forgetting trainers in military academies, who also need to work on gender equality and respect for diversity. The role of the hierarchy and the officers will be crucial if change is to occur.
There needs to be a better reconciliation between private and professional life. Support measures need to be made available to women soldiers and men soldiers. Such measures could result in a climate that is more favourable for the integration of women in the military, making it easier for everyone to fulfil their mission. All of that could bring violent incidents to an end, or at least reduce their number, and avoid the kind of media coverage of military situations that we have seen.
Let me remind you what the Committee of Ministers said in 2010, in reference to difficulties with gender equality in the armed forces: “One cannot expect members of the armed forces to respect human rights in their operations if they do not respect the same rights within their own armies.” Governments have learned lessons from recent events and put in place systems of alert, complaint, support for victims and sanctions for perpetrators. Zero tolerance has become the order of the day. I remind you that this is very much in line with our Istanbul Convention – it has been mentioned on a number of occasions – which must be ratified by all member States of the Council of Europe.
Finally, I believe that each and every one of us, as parliamentarians, should act within our own parliaments, taking advantage of all the means available to us, to achieve progress and monitor how the situation is developing. Let me give you one example. Just recently, on 15 June, Brigadier General Jennie Carignan became the highest ranked officer in the Canadian armed forces in combat. She has 30 years’ military service and has taken part in external operations beyond the borders of Canada. The fact that she reached that highest rank was of course the result of her personal qualities, but it was also thanks in part to various measures that had been introduced to promote careers for women. One of her colleagues, Rear Admiral Jennifer Bennett, has stated that the gates of the armed forces, previously closed to women, are now wide open for them. Unfortunately, the Canadian example is an exception, rather than the rule.
You will understand that there is no magic wand that can change mentalities in the armed forces. It is not enough to throw in a tiny number of women, mix it up and then say that everything is done. No, we really need to put in place an atmosphere that makes it possible for each and every member of the military to achieve their best level. We need effective, competent women and men in the armed forces who respect human rights and who are responsible and courageous. I would like to thank women for their commitment to security and peace. Thank you for your attention.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. You have about four minutes and 35 seconds remaining.
We now come to the list of speakers. I call first Ms Johnsson Fornarve.
Ms JOHNSSON FORNARVE (Sweden, Spokesperson for the Unified European Left) – On behalf of the Unified European Left, I thank the rapporteur Ms Maryvonne Blondin for writing this report, “Women in the armed forces: promoting equality, putting an end to gender-based violence”.
We still live in a world that is not equal. The main reason for that is that we still live in a patriarchal system, where men are seen as superior in all areas. That reality is reflected even in the armed forces. Women have always played an important role in wars and conflicts during history—for example, the Kurdish women fighters in Rojava—but are nevertheless still in a minority in the armed forces, especially among the higher ranks.
One reason is the treatment of women. It is still all too common for women to be subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination in the armed forces. That is not acceptable and has to end if we want more women to join. Education on gender equality is absolutely essential for both men and women. We must also ensure that women are not discriminated against, for example by making sure that premises and clothes are designed for women and ensuring that women have access to separate changing rooms, bedrooms and so on. The armed forces have everything to gain from getting more women to join, particularly because women are better at organising and at empathy than men. Women are often most exposed during wars and conflicts. In connection to UN Resolution 1325, it is very important to expand the role and contribution of women as well as to incorporate the equality perspective in military conflicts.
Another important issue is the organisation of the armed forces, which must be more democratic, based on public defence and open to both men and women. We must broaden the tasks of the armed forces to include more issues. They could, for example, take part in work connected to natural disasters and major accidents. During such events female soldiers can play a very important role in dealing with civilians, especially women and children.
A major problem for many women is combining responsibilities for their children and families with the military profession, which sometimes requires long periods of travel and irregular work. That must be taken into account if we want more women to stay in the armed forces.
The armed forces are simply not organised according to the needs of women, which brings us back to my introduction. We live in a world ruled by men, built on men’s conditions and values. We can change that, and we need to. Both men and women benefit from gender equality, in society in general and within the armed forces specifically.
Mr JENSSEN (Norway, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – The issue of women in the armed forces is not only about equal rights and responsibilities. It is also about recruiting the best personnel to our armed forces—the best men and women. By selecting the best, our armed forces will be better prepared for their important missions.
Traditionally male dominated, the armed forces have had to rethink and redo a lot over the years, as women have entered the services. But there is still work to be done to ensure non-discrimination and the absence of harassment and sexual abuse, as well as to improve recruitment and career opportunities. Increasing woman’s participation in and sense of ownership of the military is the best way to create the environment we all want. Developing a healthy culture in any organisation is something people do together, with mutual respect and influence. A healthy culture must include respect for equal rights, non-discrimination and the absence of harassment, whether sexual or any other form of harassment. Such attitudes cannot be formed within the armed forces alone. Improvements are needed in society as a whole, which over time will be reflected in the military services. We cannot simply rely upon that happening, however. As member States we must take an active role and follow up on the measures and strategies outlined in the report.
I am proud to highlight the fact that Norway is the first country in Europe and in NATO to introduce mandatory military service for women as well as men. Only the most motivated conscripts are selected for service each year, and the first group of conscripted women start their service this summer. Over time, the new conscription system is expected to lead to better recruitment of women to the military profession and to senior positions. In addition, the Norwegian army has introduced a pilot project for the world’s first all-female special forces unit, Hunter Troop, and the air force conscripted a 50:50 quota of men and women to serve at one of its bases. In addition to carrying out their mission satisfactorily, many of the women sought further service in the armed forces.
Those are examples of constructive measures for making the armed forces more interesting for women, and thus a better place for all personnel, men and women alike. I thank the rapporteur for an important job and report.
Ms HEINRICH (Germany, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – President, colleagues, “members of the armed forces cannot be expected to respect human rights in their operations unless respect for these rights is guaranteed within the armed forces themselves.” That key phrase, from paragraph 5 of the draft resolution, provides a superb summary of Maryvonne Blondin’s report. I thank you, Maryvonne, for your excellent report, which shows clearly that the armed forces are still male-dominated worlds, and in parts are clearly anti-women. Discrimination, harassment and violence against women are all accurately described in the report.
The report also provides us with important recommendations to correct this unacceptable situation. We now have a good opportunity to improve things. Many Council of Europe member States are drafting national action plans for the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 or are currently reworking existing national action plans. Making the armed forces more attractive for women is indivisibly linked to Resolution 1325. The resolution has consequences not just for foreign policy but for domestic policy and the structural adaptation of our armed forces.
Australia sets a good example. In 2012, it published a national action plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325, which includes strategies for the human resources management of the Australian armed forces. By 2018, the following will be implemented: a training programme on issues related to Resolution 1325; a programme to increase the number of women in leadership positions in the armed forces; a complaints mechanism for women; and the full investigation of all reports and accusations of gender-based violence. Colleagues, that is a fine example.
UN peace missions are becoming more important, and so promoting women in our armed forces is likewise more important. The involvement of female soldiers in a peace mission improves the effectiveness, image and credibility of the mission with the local population, and also improves access to the mission. Women soldiers can be contact points for women who are often severely traumatised, and encourage women to use their rights.
In a 2015 global study of Resolution 1325, UN Women called on all states to set specific goals for increasing women’s representation, at the top of the chain of command in particular. The time is therefore right for the Council of Europe to deal with this issue, which Maryvonne Blondin has done so thoroughly in her report.
Mr GRIN (Switzerland, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)* – The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe has taken cognisance of Ms Blondin’s excellent report. It raises a number of the problems facing women who serve in the armed forces, in which men are still in the majority. Given the harassment and assaults that take place in an environment that lends itself to abuse, we need to provide proper support for victims who report abuse. Ways to improve the situation that have been flagged up include opening up positions in all parts of the armed services to women in a way that also provides a work-life balance. Many studies in this field are cited in the report, and they will be very useful for members.
It is crucial to boost our actions to prevent the abuse and put an end to the harassment of women in the armed forces. Women are now involved in various careers, and we need to attract more women to the sector by avoiding stereotypes during the recruitment process. We are looking at how to combat the violence that faces women, and if we do nothing about this, that will make it easier for such violence to go unchecked. It is very important to have more women in our armed forces, and that is why all these points have been very clearly developed by Ms Blondin in her report, for which many thanks. The draft resolution adopted unanimously by the committee proposes the means of eradicating the unacceptable violence facing women in a majority masculine context. Women must be able to serve their country with dignity.
Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – The time when women were treated only as the ones dealing with the kitchen and the children has been left in the past. Times are changing, and there is nothing extraordinary about having women politicians and business women. Despite the fact that there is a long history of women serving in the armed forces, the ability to attract women to military service has become sustainable only in past few decades. The growing number of armed conflicts in the world has forced some women to change their lifestyle and become soldiers. It is now high time that we thought about the position of women in the armed forces.
This report is necessary because of the establishment of de facto equality between men and women in different spheres of social and political life – more and more women reach high positions in the State that have traditionally been occupied by men – and because of the problems involving gender discrimination in military forces. The report raises the most problematic issues regarding the violation of women’s rights. The violation of statutory relations in relation to women in the armed forces has been expressed in various psychological and physical forms, including sexual violence. Research shows that women in the armed forces are subject to various forms of abuse, such as rape or attempted rape, being subject to constant psychological pressure on the grounds of gender and enduring men’s obscene jokes.
Another problem relates to the provision of certain social conditions and services for women in the armed forces. These issues are particularly relevant when units are placed in the field in the course of exercises or during armed conflicts of varying intensity. A special approach to the organisation of women’s military service on surface ships and submarines is required. It is necessary to provide favourable conditions for the increasing number of women serving in military forces. I highly approve of the rapporteur’s idea about creating a gender consultant and a women’s military network.
If we are to fight for women’s rights, we should carry on to the end and cover all areas of women’s activities. It is time to allow women to become soldiers, and to enable them to enjoy their right to be promoted, to be treated as professionals and to work in favourable and decent conditions.
The PRESIDENT – The rapporteur will have a chance to reply at the end of the debate, but do you wish to respond at this stage, Ms Blondin? No. In that case, we will continue with the list of speakers. I call Ms Grecea. She is not here, so I call Mr Frécon.
Mr FRÉCON (France)* – I sincerely thank our colleague Maryvonne Blondin for her exhaustive report on a subject that is still very much misunderstood. In this debate, I want to talk about the situation in France, where gender balance is now a reality in the armed forces. The French army could no longer function without its 34 000 women members. The French army is one of the most feminised in the western world, and the role of women has increased consistently in the past 12 years. This is very much the result of the professionalisation of the armed forces, as the rapporteur has said.
Nevertheless, women are under-represented at the higher levels – among officers – despite the fact that the Ministry of Defence is participating fully in the implementation of the inter-ministerial policy to ensure parity and equality between women and men. For that purpose, the ministry has drawn up an action plan for the period 2013 to 2017. There are several thrusts to this roadmap. The first concerns human resources policy, especially when it comes to initial and in-service training, strengthening support services for women, such as setting up a nursery school for the children of women in senior roles, and ensuring a better balance between their family and professional lives.
The second thrust is having a better statistical understanding of the situation of women in the Ministry of Defence. A parity observatory for the ministry has been set up. The role of women in the relation between the army and the nation has been strengthened, particularly during our annual defence and citizenship day, which is organised so as to involve 93% of a given age cohort. Former women soldiers are also honoured: it is important that they benefit from the nation’s recognition to the same extent as men who have been in combat do.
The third thrust relates to the role of the Ministry of Defence in the prevention of and the fight against violence against women. As the rapporteur has quite rightly stressed, the ministry, following the revelation by the press of some very disquieting facts, has carried out in-depth work on cases of harassment, aggression and sexual violence in the armed forces. The French Defence Minister has reminded everyone that the only valid principle is that of zero tolerance. An action plan has been designed, covering prevention and transparency measures, as well as sanctions and support for victims. It is important that victims can receive an appropriate institutional response. The military hierarchy must understand that it is their duty to sanction any disciplinary shortcomings. It is also important to improve support, particularly long-term support, for victims, who too often feel that they have been abandoned by the institution. Women victims need to be assisted in reintegrating into professional life to the greatest possible extent.
Ms PALIHOVICI (Republic of Moldova) – I thank the rapporteur for her insightful work on such an important issue. We talk about worldwide gender equality, but there are several areas where this remains unexplored territory. The starting point in each country where efforts are beginning to be made should be to assess the actual facts: harassment and violence against women does exist. We should adopt a policy of zero tolerance, prevent and combat gender-based violence and establish mechanisms for dealing with such offences.
Together with the Parliamentary Assembly, I deplore the fact that the sexual harassment of women is still frequent, and not only in the armed forces. It is hard to understand how in the 21st century there are still countries in which sexual harassment and abuse are not explicitly prohibited by law. It is true that women who join the armed forces are faced with an environment designed by and for men, but this should not be a reason for discrimination to persist. As in every other field, a pre-condition of succeeding professionally is to start with the proper academic training.
This is why, on a national level, we should insist on promoting the teaching of the gender dimension in all stages of military training and make sure that both men and women have access to military studies. In transitional democracies, it is essential to promote the recruitment of women to the armed forces, open all positions and develop flexible career paths. We should also design policies for recruiting women and including them in roles from which they have previously been excluded.
The greater participation of women in peacekeeping operations is not only bringing the armed forces into more contact with civilian population but giving additional opportunities for more effective talks on finding solutions to armed conflicts. In my opinion, the pre-condition for successfully debating this issue and designing, voting on and implementing a solution is actively to seek to achieve gender balance in the parliamentary bodies dealing with the armed forces, and if such bodies do not exist in parliaments to set up bodies such as the Parliamentary Ombudsman for the Armed Forces in Norway. National parliaments have a key role to play in all areas covered by this report, because, within the legislatures, national action plans on women, peace and security can be adopted.
In discussing this report we should also mention UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which stresses the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peacebuilding and peacekeeping. We have to call the parliaments and governments of all countries to step up their efforts to implement this resolution, as this has become an increasing concern because of the increasing number of conflict areas globally in recent years.
In conclusion, national parliaments should raise awareness among relevant stakeholders to draft legislative initiatives to achieve the objectives on women, peace and security; and on available parliamentary platforms, such as women’s caucuses, they should have parliamentary public debates and prepare reports on this issue. It is usually thanks to the efforts of a single member of parliament, a pioneer, or a single citizen such as Nadiia Savchenko, to raise the alarm and start acting on such issues.
Ms WURM (Austria)* – I thank the rapporteur, Maryvonne Blondin, for her excellent report and for examining this issue. I have been a member of this Assembly for a long time now, and I do not think that we have looked at the issue of women in the armed forces and gender equality, so I am delighted that we have this opportunity here today.
Gender equality in the armed forces is something that we still have not attained today. One colleague here has presented France as an example. In my country, in 1998, women were allowed to join the Austrian armed forces. We still have a lot of catch-up work to do. We do not have many women serving in our armed forces, and it is only since 2014 that we have had a woman general, so progress is slow. However, there is some progress. In Austria, we have also implemented an armed forces committee, which soldiers can approach. We also have an ombudsman for gender equality. So work is under way to promote gender equality. We are working to look at where there are disadvantages for women in particular – in career progression, for example – where change can be made.
Several colleagues today have referred to Resolution 1325. It has been implemented everywhere, but it has not really come to life, as it were, because there is no money for it. What is the use of a national action plan if the financial resources are not made available to implement it? We need money for this, we need financing, so that UN Resolution 1325 can serve its purpose.
A major issue for me is the following. We need to be really very careful that in all areas – in peace missions, for example – women can play a role. Women need to sit at the negotiating table when peace is being negotiated. When people are discussing how to establish peace in a country, women need to be there. You need 50:50 representation. That is what we should be aiming for. If we are talking about war and peace, women must be involved. We know how important this is. We have known this for a long time. We know that, when women are involved, peace becomes more sustainable. We know that, where women serve as soldiers and are involved in peace missions, local populations are accepting of that. This is vital for our goals of democracy and gender equality.
THE PRESIDENT – As Mr Jakavonis is not in the Chamber, I now call Nadiia Savchenko.
Ms SAVCHENKO (Ukraine)* – In reading this report, I saw one very important sentence, which states that the military is a world created by and for men. I fully agree with that. In the post-Soviet period, Ukraine has endowed itself with an army, but it is one that is based on a very outdated system. I served in the military for 10 years of my life and I fought against that. The problem in Ukraine is that there is nothing in law that says that women have equal rights with men in the military. This was all regulated by the minister of defence through individual decrees, so men set up a world from which women were excluded.
I tried four years in a row to be admitted to pilot school, but I was told that women were not admitted simply because they are women. I appealed this to the minister of defence, who took away an asterisk that led to a footnote that said that women cannot be admitted to the military. That is in the 21st century. The asterisk was removed, and I was finally admitted to pilot school. Only now that I have become a member of the delegation to the Council of Europe and have become a Ukrainian parliamentarian have I been able to apply pressure to remove these asterisks from all texts.
As long as men are doing whatever they want without any input from women, this must be combated and not repeated. During the war in Ukraine, women have shown that they are often more resilient and stronger than men on many occasions. Equal opportunities should be available in all structures. There should be full parity, full equality. It is very narrow-minded to think otherwise. I apologise; I am starting to use Ukrainian words as I speak Russian. Women can often be much broader in their approach. Obviously, this should not be abused, but there should be full equality. I was quite capable of running 5 km with a backpack. People should be admitted to various positions, including military service, on the basis of their abilities, skills and competence, and never on the basis of gender.
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – I thank the rapporteur, my dear colleague Ms Blondin, for her interesting and instructive report. This issue is important to Europe. For some decades now, Europe’s armies have gradually been growing more receptive to the recruitment of women. However, although the number of women recruited to the armed forces has increased in many countries, the military environment has not always adjusted to this state of affairs. As mentioned in the report, women in the military face many forms of discrimination, including in their access to the most senior positions and certain combat occupations.
Harassment and violence against women in the armed forces are not inevitable. Women today are rightly considered as particular subjects in international law and provided with broad guarantees to enjoy and implement their rights. Unfortunately, however, despite all the activities accomplished and decisions adopted, in many parts of the world, millions of women are still the victims of discrimination, which contradicts the notion of fundamental human rights. Everybody has the right to enjoy the basic human rights and liberties provided in national constitutions and legislation.
As general rapporteur on violence against women, I would like to mention that this Assembly has continually condemned any form of violence against women and early on supported the drafting of what would become the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – the Istanbul Convention – which covers all types of violence and applies both in peacetime and during situations of armed conflict. All women must be respected, taken into consideration and offered a life free from fear and violence. Wherever they are on this globe, we should not let them be forgotten. The violation of women’s rights can neither be tolerated nor remain unpunished. All women should be protected from violence and perpetrators need to be brought to justice, as there should be zero tolerance of violence against women.
Ms KOBAKHIDZE (Georgia) – Madam President, dear esteemed colleagues, allow me to express my sincere appreciation to our respected colleague for her report on the crucial issue of promoting equality and eliminating and preventing gender-based violence in the armed forces around the world.
We all have to consolidate our efforts to provide women serving in the military with the favourable environment necessary for their self-realisation, career growth and development. It should not be overlooked that harassment against women in the armed forces remains a problem. It is an issue that calls for the implementation of effective mechanisms aimed at combating the problem. As the First Vice-Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia and the head of the Gender Equality Council, I consider it appropriate to report on the progress Georgia has made in this regard. Since 2013, under the national action plan framework, first-year bachelor school junkers at the National Defence Academy of Georgia and first-year career school listeners have attended training sessions on gender equality principles, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and other relevant resolutions. More than 1 000 military servants have already been trained under the programme. Such educational programmes and training courses are a prerequisite for ensuring the active participation of women at all levels of decision making and the elimination of gender-based discrimination.
Georgia is actively involved in peacekeeping missions in various countries. Accordingly, since 2014, the pre-deployment preparation for military personnel has included training on gender equality, UN resolutions and gender and sexual violence. In last two years, more than 2 000 Georgian soldiers have been trained as part of their pre-deployment preparation for the International Security Assistance Force mission. I would like proudly to state that our efforts have already brought concrete results. Today, women make up more than 7% of the personnel of the armed forces of Georgia. A woman heads a department at the general staff of the Georgian armed forces, and for the first time in Georgia, the Minister for Defence is a woman. In addition, about 45% of civil servants at the Ministry of Defence of Georgia are women.
In conclusion, we have to express our appreciation to and solidarity with female soldiers fighting for peace and security in various hot spots all over the world. Our obligation is to do our best to make their heavy burdens lighter. Thank you for your attention.
Ms DURANTON (France)* – Madam President, colleagues, I pay tribute to the work of my colleague and compatriot, Maryvonne Blondin, whose excellent report contains an abundance of specific examples, thanks to her contacts with the Norwegian army and NATO.
The report sheds light on a little-known yet extremely interesting subject and touches on what, unfortunately, are recurring themes when it comes to things that affect women’s lives. In the armed forces, as in other parts of society, the role of women is fortunately becoming more prominent. They can show their competence, skills and experience in diverse missions and tasks. In out-of-country operations, as in Afghanistan, they have promoted contact with local populations. However, women in the armed forces encounter the same difficulties and obstacles they find in other areas of life. They are sidelined in allegedly feminine roles and granted limited access – sometimes prohibited access – to certain careers. For example, there is a glass ceiling for submariners. It is also difficult for them to achieve a work-life balance. In addition, they experience discrimination, harassment and even sexual assault – it is a long list.
These problems are exacerbated by the historically masculine image of the army and its promotion of values associated with virility. Women are still few and far between in the armed forces and frequently are found in specific roles, such as healthcare. In the army, as elsewhere, equality for women is a long road littered with stumbling blocks – something we know all about in politics – but progress has undeniably been achieved, thanks to active measures supported by clear policies. That is the case in Norway, which the rapporteur commented on at length.
In the armed forces we find, more perhaps than elsewhere, a wealth of gender stereotypes – a difficult obstacle to budge. We need a change in mindset, but these do not change easily and any change is never irreversible. Public perception of the army is still influenced by tradition and custom, and women in the armed services too often absorb these stereotypes and thus rule themselves out of promotion prospects. It is an environment in which they remain a minority. I remain optimistic, however, and the report highlights many instances of best practice. This can help to move things forward. A commitment from the chain of command in the armed forces is also necessary if we are to make such progress. It will take time and we would be well advised to return to this subject in the Assembly a few years hence to stake stock.
Ms DURRIEU (France)* – Maryvonne Blondin, you were very brave to take on this subject – many others had not even thought of it – so I thank you. In your report, you put it very well when you talk about why women cannot serve their country as men do. That is the essence of the issue. It needs to become a completely normal personal, civic and patriotic commitment. That is enough for a man to command the respect of other men.
However, we know that women are strong. The man was the warrior and the woman stayed at home, but women have proven that they are strong in difficult situations. In France during the First World War, the men were in the trenches, but it was the women who were in the factories, manufacturing the cannons. It was the same in 1939. Female members of the resistance played a big role. I am the daughter of a member of the French resistance. We have never doubted the contribution of women. It was what was required of them in that situation. That was recognised in 1944, when women were given the right to vote.
Look at the female Kurds – these fighters; these Amazons. We see how committed women are to combat. Sometimes, they give up the opportunity to marry or to have children. We saw the Kurdish women’s military groups in January 2014 and they still have a vital role to play. If a member of Daesh is killed by a woman, he will never get to paradise – that is lost to him.
This is a symbolic moment in respect of the professional armies in our countries. We must draw on everything that has been said about harassment and violence against women. Such things are completely unacceptable and we must denounce them. We need to make all positions in the armed forces accessible to women. Nadiia Savchenko said it all. She was a pilot and she wanted to fight. She said, “If I have to run or march 5 km, I will do that.” I say to other women, “Let us fight.” Quotas will not be enough. We need to fight. If we want to occupy posts in the army or political posts, we cannot depend on others or on measures, although those are vital. There are symbolic institutions that need to be gender balanced systematically. Look at the United Nations – that is a window.
The armed forces are probably the most difficult area in which to reach these goals. I am a member and deputy chair of the defence committee. I am not a member of the armed forces, but I want to move forward in this fight.
Mr FRIDEZ (Switzerland)* – Promoting equality and ending gender-based violence are essential challenges in our modern societies and much remains to be done to achieve those ends. It is particularly important to meet that challenge in the armed forces, and I join those who have congratulated Ms Blondin on her excellent report.
People remain mute about problems in the armed forces because there is a macho and sexist culture and mentality, and that must evolve. When there is promiscuity in a group that is cut off from the world, there is a risk that abuses will occur. It can start with indecent gestures or words concerning the physical appearance of women that are sexist or sexual in nature. Many women are the victims of injurious behaviour that seems trite to the perpetrators. Then there are undesired invitations and physical contact, and attempts to come closer sexually under threat of reprisals or with the promise of promotion. Then there is actual sexual violence. Unfortunately, that exists in all armed forces.
Unfortunately, it is true in Switzerland as well, where fewer than 1% of those in the armed forces are women volunteers. Each year, between three and seven cases of sexual violence are reported to the military police, but there may be many other cases that do not come to the fore because of the omertà – the law of silence. How can you prove the fact? A number of factors are decisive, such as the way in which the hierarchy behaves and the procedure for lodging complaints.
In 2005, the Federal Council – the Swiss Government – called for a report on the situation of women in the armed forces. It called for full equality, the prohibition of any form of discrimination and full respect for diversity, sexual orientation, religion, ethnic origin and age. Concrete measures have been introduced in Switzerland. First, there are obligatory courses for professional soldiers and civilians serving in the military about equality of opportunity. There are special courses on legal theory and concrete cases of discrimination are discussed. Victims have direct access to a person they can trust and mediation services. There is the ability to lodge a complaint formally, independently of the chain of command.
In conclusion, I fully support this excellent work.
Ms LAVIE (Israel, Observer) – I thank the rapporteur for her excellent job on this interesting and important report.
In Israel, it is mandatory for all women to serve in the army for two years. Some 92% of jobs in the Israeli army are open to women. Opening up that number of jobs for women was a long, long process that involved women’s organisations and social activists, together with the supreme court. That work has not stopped. We have to work for the remaining 8%.
I completed the officer training course 30 years ago, when there were only three jobs into which I could have been accepted. Today it is totally different. Almost everything is open to women. I have daughters and my youngest, who is 17, wants to be a pilot. The sky is open to her because she can be a pilot. I have seen how she and her friends prepare themselves. They know that they can achieve whatever they want. I am amazed at the range of options a young woman has to choose from when she joins the army. It goes right through to intelligence testing and combat instructors, teachers and trainers in a single gender or co-ed setting.
Although many, many jobs are now open to women, we need to do more. I am a member of the committee on the status of women and gender equality and of the defence committee. We have found that we need not only to open jobs to women, but to educate young people and find role models for them. I am talking about jobs in cyber technology and other electronic fields. It is not enough to open the jobs; we need to create a process of education.
The Israeli army has revolutionised its system for dealing with sexual harassment, which has been a problem. In Israel, the army reports to parliament about how it deals with this topic. That is a good suggestion that I recommend to other parliaments.
The PRESIDENT – Ms Gunnarsdóttir is not here, so I call Ms Pascale Crozon.
Ms CROZON (France)* – I thank the rapporteur for her excellent report, which links women in our armed forces with the need to better protect women who serve under their flag. Women have the right to serve their country in the same way as men. They have the skills, but there is still work to be done to guarantee gender equality. Two years ago, the book “The Invisible War” revealed the violent scandal that existed in the French army. It presented 35 cases that revealed instances of rape. It was the Minister of Defence who took the necessary steps to introduce alert systems, preventive measures and punishments.
The rapporteur is right to focus on the difficulty in shedding light on these issues. The hierarchy is not adapted to passing on information in confidence. Women are not sure that they will be listened to and there are issues relating to the statistics. It is clear that this needs to be improved to identify the victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. The victims themselves must be prepared to speak, which is difficult. The under-representation of women, the rigid hierarchy and life together in the armed forces make it difficult for them to report. The result is the trivialisation of statements or inappropriate gestures, which are internalised by victims as cultural facts that they have to live with. For those wishing to denounce this behaviour, there is a great fear of becoming someone who threatens the cohesion and stability of the service, of seeing their progress restricted and of being subjected to other forms of pressure.
Zero tolerance will make it possible to see progress here and make it possible for suspicions to be raised. We need to see these cases taken to court. They must be prosecuted. We need to guarantee the protection of victims. We need to guarantee training and share good practice throughout people’s military careers. In doing so, we will enable women to break the glass ceiling and guarantee gender balance in the hierarchy and the respect and dignity of women serving in the armed forces.
Ms BULIGA (Republic of Moldova)* – I thank Ms Blondin for her report. Dear colleagues, a new model of society can be put in place only on the basis of seeing a culture of peace and equality of genders as fundamental values. In a world of constant transformation and a region of many different challenges, the participation of women and men in our armed forces can consolidate the operational capacity and efficacy of those forces.
Women who join the army are confronted by an environment created by men and for men. They are still in a minority and are confronted by various forms of discrimination. It is necessary to discuss this problem out loud. These mentalities, which are based on a purely masculine approach insofar as the armed forces are concerned, along with rigid channels of promotion and the inaccessibility of certain positions are all obstacles to professional equality in the military. Harassment based on the criterion of gender and attacks against women are frequent in the armed forces, while the in-house culture creates a favourable environment for this kind of abuse.
Women are bearers of peace among peoples and nations. They are a source of experience, of competence and of prospects. The integration of women in the armed forces is a subject that is also being discussed in the Republic of Moldova. My country has taken some important steps in this respect, by enacting a law on gender equality and drafting a new framework document for policies to be implemented to ensure equality of opportunity. The report is a useful instrument for conducting a comparative analysis of progress achieved in the implementation of national plans to ensure gender equality and also in the application of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.
We need new long-term security policies drawn up by women, concentrating on women and carried out by women – not to the detriment of men or in lieu of men, but side by side with men, genuinely involving them. There is no pillar of stability stronger or more important than strong, free and educated women, just as there is no more inspiring model than a man who respects and appreciates women and is prepared to work with them on a completely equal footing.
Ms BONET (Andorra)* – I thank the rapporteur, Ms Maryvonne Blondin, for her excellent work on this report. In the report we debated previously we commented that the view that children had of girls was likely to be over-sexualised. We have to ensure that professionals and professional life set a different example. Recently we found that women have been promoted more in professional life, but the bar for women is still very high. It is a long road and we are not at the end of it yet.
However, we are talking about harassment and discrimination. There are many people who should be encouraged to recognise that the women they work with are their colleagues. They are also women, but they are primarily colleagues, and that applies particularly to the armed forces. It is a highly masculinised profession, which is something you could also say for police forces or fire services. Ensuring that women are part and parcel of those bodies has been complicated and difficult, and the proposals in the report are applicable to those contexts too.
Certainly in my country we do not have armed forces, but I still think these proposals will be useful for us in other areas. We are talking about gender equality across the board, and it is our duty as members of parliament to ensure that this is the case in all professional sectors, which used to be very masculine and now have women actively pursuing career opportunities. Women have the same skills as men. They should be recognised as such and equal.
Mr ROMO MEDINA (Mexico, Observer)* – It is a privilege to speak in this Chamber on such an important subject: promoting gender equality and putting an end to gender-based violence in respect of women in the armed forces.
Historically, the armed forces were the preserve of men, and there were discriminatory arrangements made to keep it that way. Women were only brought in as administrators or assistants when needed, but we are now looking at strategies to specifically promote equality throughout our societies and their institutions, including the armed forces.
As legislators, we must actively ensure that there is no explicit discrimination or exclusion standing in the way of genuine participation by women. Mexico’s legislation states that women in fighting units of the army and the air force can lead a division, and it is possible for women to be a brigadier-general in the other wings of those services. We have to achieve proper equality for men and women. Indeed, it is possible for a woman to be Secretary of Defence. Thanks to efforts since 2007, we now have 12 500 women serving in our armed forces, including three brigadier-generals, 29 colonels and 146 lieutenant-colonels. Each year we see more women come into military training institutions, and there will be exponential growth in the proportion of women.
The delegation of Mexico pays tribute to Nadiia Savchenko, who is a living example of women’s commitment to the armed forces. It is vital to achieve consensus on improving training for all military personnel and to take affirmative action to promote genuine equality between men and women in order to ensure that we stamp out violence and gender-based discrimination.
The PRESIDENT – That concludes the list of speakers. I call Ms Blondin, the rapporteur, to reply. You have four minutes and 35 seconds.
Ms BLONDIN (France)* – I thank colleagues for their support in this debate. I have been interested by your rich presentations and flattered by your compliments, but above all I note that the report has made you examine the situation in your own countries, which is an important first step along the path towards gender-balanced armed forces. Maybe the report will provide the kickstart for future work. I could not get everything down, but I am struck by the importance you attach to opening all posts to women. In France, women cannot yet serve on submarines. I spoke about this subject in a meeting with the minister of defence in 2011. Following the construction of new submarines just last year, we are now going to see three women serving aboard our nuclear attack submarines, which is an important change.
I have also noted Ms Savchenko’s footnotes. Women often censure themselves by asking, “Am I capable of doing this?” That is often the case in politics, too. But, as Ms Durrieu said, women are strong. What will the report make possible? The report comes at a good time, and it is a practical report that you can use in your countries and parliaments. You can look at the reality as it is today, and with your colleagues you can look at the legislation in your country to see whether there is room for improvement. Action is being drafted for the implementation of Resolution 1325. It is important that gender equality is guaranteed for all those serving their countries and serving for peace.
I thank you, Madam President, for your help, for your warm welcome and for the assistance you have provided to the services and to me. You have supported these novel policies in your own country, and I thank you for the two days that we were able to spend there. I thank everyone who has spoken and, as I will not be able to speak later, I thank the chairperson of the committee for supporting and working with me on the report, which was thoroughly supported by our competent team of women.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you for your very good words and your very good work, Ms Blondin. Does the chairperson of the committee, Ms Centemero, wish to speak?
Ms CENTEMERO (Italy) – I thank Ms Blondin for the resolution and the report, which have been interesting and important for the committee and for all of us.
In addressing the situation of women in the armed forces, Ms Blondin has taken us to the heart of a burning but far too hidden issue. Our armed forces exist to protect our democracies from external threats, but what happens internally? All too often, our armed forces operate behind closed doors and we do not ask how our soldiers are treated or whether their rights are respected.
Ms Blondin’s report shows clearly how women’s role in the armed forces has expanded in recent years, and how the armed forces increasingly need women in order to fulfil their role. At the same time, she exposes the discrimination and violence that women face when they take on military commitments.
In preparing the report, our committee heard moving testimonies from a journalist who had met dozens of survivors of gender-based harassment and violence in their national armies, and from a representative of military personnel who had campaigned for many military women in their fight for justice. We also heard stories of empowerment and of how much women can contribute to the armed forces when they are respected as equals.
The committee unanimously approved the draft resolution in May. Now is our chance, as members of the Assembly, to support this crucial text, throw light on the issue and show the way forward. I warmly invite members to support the draft resolution.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Centemero.
The debate is closed.
The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has presented a draft resolution. We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 14073. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 14073 is adopted, with 41 votes for, 0 against and 1 abstention.
The deadline for sub-amendments to the amendments tabled in respect of the report on “The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey” has been extended to 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
7. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow at 10 a.m. with the agenda that was approved yesterday.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 7.50 p.m.)
1. Changes in committee membership
2. Election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of the United Kingdom
3. Communication from the Committee of Ministers
Statement by Ms Marina Kaljurand, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers
Questions: Mr Kox, Mr Omtzigt, Ms Mikko, Mr Gopp, Sir Roger Gale, Ms Blondin, Mr R. Huseynov, Ms Yaşar.
4. Debate: Fighting the over-sexualisation of children
Presentation by Mr Ghiletchi of the report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development
Statement by Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
Speakers: Ms Fataliyeva, Mr Jónasson, Ms Bartos, Ms Maury Pasquier, Mr Schnabel, Ms Åberg, Ms Blondin, Ms Stefanelli, Mr Gopp, Mr Kiral, Mr Blanchart, Ms Dalloz, Ms Rawert, Ms Crozon, Mr Howell, Baroness Massey, Ms Karamanli, Ms Bonet, Mr G. Davies, Ms Louhelainen, Ms Gunnarsdóttir
Draft resolution in Document 14080, as amended, adopted
Draft recommendation in Document 14080 adopted
5. Election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of the United Kingdom
6. Debate: Women in the armed forces: promoting equality, putting an end to gender-based violence
Presentation by Ms Blondin of the report of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination
Speakers: Ms Johnsson Fornarve, Mr Jenssen, Ms Heinrich, Mr Grin, Ms Fataliyeva, Mr Frécon, Ms Palihovici, Ms Wurm, Ms Savchenko, Ms Gafarova, Ms Kobakhidze, Ms Duranton, Ms Durrieu, Mr Fridez, Ms Lavie, Ms Crozon, Ms Buliga, Ms Bonet, Mr Romo Medina.
Draft resolution in Document 14073 adopted
7. Next public business
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 12.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk
Lord Donald ANDERSON*
Mehmet BABAOĞLU/Salih Firat
Gérard BAPT/Jean-Claude Frécon
Doris BARNETT/ Mechthild Rawert
José Manuel BARREIRO*
Anna Maria BERNINI/Claudio Fazzone
Maria Teresa BERTUZZI
Mladen BOSIĆ/Saša Magazinović
Piet De BRUYN
Margareta BUDNER/ Jarosław Obremski
Lise CHRISTOFFERSEN/ Ingebjørg Godskesen
David CRAUSBY/Baroness Doreen Massey
Katalin CSÖBÖR/Mónika Bartos
Joseph DEBONO GRECH*
Manlio DI STEFANO
Francesc Xavier DOMENECH*
Sir Jeffrey DONALDSON*
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*
Lady Diana ECCLES*
Franz Leonhard EẞL
Joseph FENECH ADAMI
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU
Doris FIALA/Manuel Tornare
Axel E. FISCHER*
Sir Roger GALE
Xavier GARCÍA ALBIOL*
José Ramón GARCÍA HERNÁNDEZ*
Tina GHASEMI/ Boriana Åberg
Mihai GHIMPU/Alina Zotea
Francesco Maria GIRO
Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES
Oleksii GONCHARENKO/Sergiy Vlasenko
Alina Ștefania GORGHIU*
Dzhema GROZDANOVA/Milena Damyanova
Emine Nur GÜNAY
Maria GUZENINA/Susanna Huovinen
Andrzej HALICKI/Killion Munyama
Alfred HEER/Jean-Pierre Grin
Michael HENNRICH/ Thomas Feist
Ekmeleddin Mehmet İHSANOĞLU*
Michael Aastrup JENSEN
Frank J. JENSSEN
Florina-Ruxandra JIPA/Viorel Riceard Badea
Anne KALMARI/Anne Louhelainen
Niklas KARLSSON/Eva-Lena Jansson
Filiz KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR
Danail KIRILOV/Krasimira Kovachka
Ksenija KORENJAK KRAMAR*
Rom KOSTŘICA/Gabriela Pecková
Borjana KRIŠTO/Bariša Čolak
Eerik-Niiles KROSS/Andres Herkel
Yuliya L OVOCHKINA*
Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’/Pascale Crozon
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT
Luís LEITE RAMOS
François LONCLE/Geneviève Gosselin-Fleury
Muslum MAMMADOV/Sevinj Fataliyeva
Soňa MARKOVÁ/Pavel Holík
Meritxell MATEU/Carles Jordana
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA*
Ana Catarina MENDES
Anouchka van MILTENBURG/ Pieter Omtzigt
Thomas MÜLLER/Roland Rino Büchel
Andrei NEGUTA/Liliana Palihovici
Johan NISSINEN/Markus Wiechel
Carina OHLSSON/Lotta Johnsson Fornarve
Judith PALLARÉS/Sílvia Eloïsa Bonet
Florin Costin PÂSLARU*
Cezar Florin PREDA*
Lia QUARTAPELLE PROCOPIO*
Melisa RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ*
Alex SALMOND/ Mike Wood
Vincenzo SANTANGELO/Maria Edera Spadoni
Deborah SCHEMBRI/Joseph Sammut
Ingjerd SCHOU/Hans Fredrik Grøvan
Aleksandar SENIĆ/Vesna Marjanović
Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Egidijus Vareikis
Olena SOTNYK/Serhii Kiral
İbrahim Mustafa TURHAN*
Leyla Şahin USTA/Lütfiye Ilksen Ceritoğlu Kurt
Snorre Serigstad VALEN/Kristin Ørmen Johnsen
Imre VEJKEY/Rózsa Hoffmann
Mart van de VEN
Vladimir VORONIN/Maria Postoico
Katrin WERNER/Annette Groth
Marie-Jo ZIMMERMANN/Marie-Christine Dalloz
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Ulises RAMÍREZ NÚÑEZ
Miguel ROMO MEDINA
Partners for Democracy
Representatives or Substitutes who took part in the ballot for the election of the judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of the United Kingdom
Doris BARNETT/ Mechthild Rawert
Sir Jeffrey DONALDSON
Franz Leonhard EẞL
Oleksii GONCHARENKO/Sergiy Vlasenko
Maria GUZENINA/Susanna Huovinen
Andrzej HALICKI/Killion Munyama
Tedo JAPARIDZE/ Eka Beselia
Frank J. JENSSEN
Borjana KRIŠTO/Bariša Čolak
François LONCLE/Geneviève Gosselin-Fleury
Muslum MAMMADOV/Sevinj Fataliyeva
Meritxell MATEU/Carles Jordana
Helena ROSETA/António Filipe Rodrigues
Aleksandar SENIĆ/Vesna Marjanović
Marie-Jo ZIMMERMANN/Marie-Christine Dalloz