Combating child sexual abuse – review of EU rules

The right of the child to protection is a key human right. Sexual abuse and exploitation of children are serious crimes, which produce life-long consequences for victims. Combating these crimes, both offline and online, is a high priority and to do so a better response is required.

As announced in the EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, the Commission will carry out a study to assess the implementation of the current EU legislation combating sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children, to identify the best practices, the remaining legal gaps and priority actions at EU level.

Directive 2011/93/EU is a comprehensive legal instrument, which contains provisions on substantive criminal law harmonising definitions and criminal offences covering both offline and online acts. It also contains provisions in the area of prevention, investigation and prosecution of offences, as well as assistance to and protection of victims. However, it must be reinforced to ensure it is effective and fit for purpose.

In the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, the European Commission committed to continue supporting EU Member States to resolve all issues remaining in the implementation of the Directive as a matter of priority, in order to ensure its full implementation across the EU. In a separate initiative, the strategy also foresees an extensive study to identify legislative gaps, best practice, and priority actions at EU level.

The European Commission has therefore launched a public consultation asking stakeholders to give feedback on current and future challenges in combatting child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse material and possible ways to reinforce, develop and update the existing framework.

The overall objectives of this initiative are to combat and reduce child sexual abuse, in all its forms and ensure effective prevention, investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse offences, and assistance, support and protection to victims.

The consultation aims to ensure that citizens and stakeholders, including those who will be directly affected by this initiative, can provide their views and input. This will also improve the evidence base underpinning the initiative.

All relevant stakeholders, including but not limited to law enforcement agencies and other public authorities concerned with combating child sexual abuse, civil society specifically those dealing with children’s rights and child protection, and citizens, are invited to partake in this online consultation and provide their input by July 13, 2022.