Last year, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, issued this statement in the United State Supreme Court amicus brief filed by the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence Against Children in the Paroline v. United States case:
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (SRSG) has identified the opportunities and risks associated with children’s access to and use of new information and communications technologies as a priority for her mandate. This work is guided by international human rights standards, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography which recognize children’s right to protection from sexual abuse through representation or images in pornographic performances or materials. Child pornography is a serious form of violence against children, including during its production and dissemination, and when it is subsequently viewed by potentially thousands of child sex abusers. At the dawn of the 1990s the exchange of information through cyberspace was just beginning. As widespread online access became commonplace, child pornography made its way into the global and connected world on the screens of personal computers, through mobile phones and social media. Information is available more easily and may be spread more quickly, potentially reaching out to millions in a fraction of a second and remaining accessible for a lifetime, with a serious impact on countless children. It is imperative that child victims of this form of sexual abuse are given the right to restitution for this crime. This is important as a remedy for these children, and as a deterrent to prevent future situations of child sex abuse of this kind.
Earlier today—speaking ahead of the global Safer Internet Day— Santos Pais, along with the Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, called on States and the IT industry to tackle head on online child sexual abuse and exploitation, while protecting the right to freedom of expression of both children and adults.
More specifically, these top United Nations experts on children’s rights and on freedom of expression recognized that:
Openness and accessibility are fundamental aspects of the Internet—but therein also lie some of the greatest risks. New technologies are easing the production and proliferation of child abuse material, with new exploitative activities appearing such as the live streaming of child sexual abuse on demand. The quantification and identification of cases are made difficult by the possibility of concealing illegal activities on the Internet. The harm caused to child victims is amplified when images of abuse and exploitation go viral.
Exposure to harmful information or abusive material, grooming by predators, breaches of privacy, cyber-bullying, and production and distribution of exploitative behaviour cannot be the price to pay for innovation and freedom.
We call on States to establish a clear and comprehensive legal framework ensuring explicit prohibition of all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation against children, including in the cyber space, as well as promoting and protecting children’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information. States also need to invest in prevention programmes and secure effective protection, recovery and compensation of child victims.
Passing the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2015 will place the United States at the forefront of the world’s efforts to “secure effective protection, recovery and compensation of child victims.” As Special Representative Santos Pais declared last year, “it is imperative that child victims of this form of sexual abuse are given the right to restitution for this crime. This is important as a remedy for these children, and as a deterrent to prevent future situations of child sex abuse of this kind.”
As Senator Hatch remarked last week, “in our system of government, we have the responsibility to pass or change legislation to address issues and problems that Americans face. All the courts could do was confirm that the current restitution statue is no longer suited to help child pornography victims. It is now up to us to do our duty and enact a statute that will.”
In both the United States and the United Nations, the AVA will have a far-reaching impact for victims and nations everywhere. Let’s pass this bill now!