Ten key steps to better protect children against sexual violence in sport

Children in sport are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse and parliaments should therefore intensify their efforts to better protect the children concerned. In the context of the 4th European Day for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, to be marked on 18 November, participants in a meeting of PACE's Sub-Committee on Education, Youth and Sport and its Sub-Committee on Children, taking place in Tbilisi on 17 and 18 October, discussed an action plan consisting of ten key steps to combat this phenomenon:

1. Developing and improving existing laws to protect children against sexual violence, with the focus on the best interest of the child. This entails setting minimum standards and laying down preventive measures to be adopted by sports institutions, as well as their legal liability if these requirements are not met, including an obligation to report, access to free legal advice for children of any age, protection for whistle-blowers, recruitment and training procedures for people dealing with children, and adequate transparency and accountability.

2. Ensuring that international and national frameworks and legislation are translated into action at local levels, by monitoring their implementation. Making parliamentarians aware of existing conventions and frameworks, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (the “Lanzarote Convention”) and the Council of Europe Strategy on the Rights of the Child.

3. Promoting training for sports professionals and volunteers dealing with children, including coaches, health or education professionals and confidential counsellors, training which should include the skills required to identify signs of abuse and take the relevant action.

4. Ensuring that steps to deal with sexual violence against children in sport are included in the mandates of sporting bodies. These should include high-level institutions such as Olympic organising committees, but also local institutions such as clubs, schools or associations. This mandate should be translated into relevant codes of conduct, rules and regulations, including prohibitions on coaches engaging in sexual relationships with those they coach. Such measures should be required at each level as a condition for receiving public funding.

5. Building alliances with key players in sport (including sports unions and civil society) and seek their advice on developing strategies, legislation, guidelines and practices. Support the creation of "Ombudspersons for children" and the strengthening of their role, and establish and further develop mechanisms for them to report back to parliaments.

6. Supporting comprehensive sex education in schools from an early age and as part of life-long learning programmes, including respectful relationship-building and practical guidance on how individuals may protect themselves against sexual violence.

7. Raising public awareness at national and local level of the problem of sexual violence against children in sport. Provide guidance on how to respond to concerns by providing information for schools, clubs and children, using child-friendly materials, media campaigns and the promotion of a culture of openness in all institutions, in order to ensure that children affected are not left to suffer in silence.

8. Involving the survivors of sexual abuse in the promotion of children’s rights and in developing legislation, good practice and monitoring systems, while paying due attention to safeguarding and ensuring their integrity and well-being.

9. Aligning policy and practice with research into sexual abuse against children and encouraging good practice and the monitoring of how effective preventive measures are.

10. Supporting national, regional, European and international co-operation in the area of child abuse in sport. In this respect, promoting the materials developed as part of the Council of Europe's “Start To Talk” Campaign.

The Action Plan is the parliamentary contribution to the Council of Europe's "Start To Talk" campaign for the 4th European Day for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.