August 5, 2021

Spain adopts pioneering child protection law

“For me, it’s too late. For other children, no. “ A year ago, the British pianist James Rhodes summed up his fight, alongside many NGOs, for Spain, the country where he lives, to adopt an ambitious child protection law. The artist said in his autobiography, Instrumental (published by Canongate Books Ltd in 2015, untranslated), the rapes of which he was the victim from the age of 6 by a sports teacher. This Friday, June 25, this legislation, better known as the “Rhodes law”, came into force.

After ten years of work between experts and political parties, this organic law, approved on May 20 in the Spanish Parliament (297 votes for and 52 against – those of the far-right party Vox) addresses all facets of violence against children, from prevention to redress through early detection or judicial protection. Considered as a “pioneer” by the main NGOs for its “integral” approach, it modifies sixteen existing laws, involves almost all the ministries and obliges the administrations to develop a strategy of sensitization and fight against this violence.

“A 2006 United Nations report on the places where violence against children is mainly committed concluded that it is preventable. He inspired the spirit of the text, which sets measures in all environments in which children evolve: schools, leisure and sports centers, medicine, police, courts, etc. ”, underlines Almudena Olaguibel, specialist in childhood policy within the Spanish branch of Unicef.

“Violence against children could not be tackled only through a reform of the penal code, it must be taken into account from a global point of view and include the whole of society”, adds Sonsoles Bartolomé, legal director of the foundation for helping children and adolescents at risk (ANAR), which can be contacted anonymously.

A “duty to file a complaint”

The law nonetheless introduces some changes in criminal matters. To take into account the difficulty of the victims to free their word, it thus postpones the limitation periods for abuse and sexual assault committed on children, which will not begin to run until they are 35 years old, and no longer when they come of age. .

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Another crucial change: the law establishes a “Duty to file a complaint” for anyone who knows or suspects acts of violence against minors, including on the Internet. A homework says ” reinforced For teachers or doctors. “Everyone must understand that they have a protective role to play towards children, to prevent and identify violence, and to form a chain that sends information back to the different levels”, underlines Mme Olaguibel. No one should think that this violence is a matter of the private or domestic sphere. “

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