Committee on Rights of Child examines report of Sweden on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Committee on the Rights
of the Child

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today reviewed the report of Sweden on how that country is implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Introducing the report, Marianne Jenryd, Director General for Administrative Affairs, Ministry of Health and Social Services of Sweden, said the Government of Sweden was fully committed to upholding and respecting its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Government’s specific objective on the rights of the child was to ensure that children and young people were respected, given the chance to develop, enjoyed security and were allowed to participate and have an influence in society. Ms. Jenryd noted that legislation was the main instrument of the Government for the implementation of the Optional Protocol and since the report was submitted in 2009, a new penal provision had entered into force to combat so-called ‘grooming’ of children for sex; the trafficking offence was amended to provide better protection; and child pornography amendments were made to strengthen the protection of children. Sweden would strive to achieve the goal where no child at all could become a victim of child sex tourism and as a first step, Sweden intended on bringing together existing knowledge and experiences and as a second step would bring the subject to the political level by means of a conference in Brussels.

In preliminary concluding remarks, Committee Expert Maria Herczog, who served as Rapporteur for the report of Sweden, said that there was still a lack of understanding on why Sweden could not integrate the two Optional Protocols into its domestic legislation and noted that this was also an issue at the European level. There was a need for greater clarification and work on defining the age of sexual consent. It was quite clear that the Swedish Government was committed to implementing as fully as possible the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols.

Other Experts raised a series of questions pertaining to, among other things, the age of sexual consent, dual criminality, the role of the child Ombudsman, and what services were provided to offenders to ensure there was no recidivism. The Committee was concerned about the issue of the sale of children as defined in Article 3 and asked if there was sufficient budgetary allocation at the national and regional areas to cover critical functions, including data collection, particularly on the sale of children and effective dissemination of the Optional Protocol by the State and not just by non-governmental organizations to increase awareness.
The Committee will release its formal, written concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Sweden towards the end of its three-week session, which will conclude on 7 October 2011.

The delegation of Sweden included representatives from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

As one of the 193 States parties to the Convention, Sweden is obliged to present periodic reports to the Committee on its efforts to comply with the provisions of the treaty. The delegation was on hand throughout the day to present the report and to answer questions raised by Committee Experts.
When the Committee next meets in public on Friday, 7 October, it will issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports which it has reviewed this session and will then close the session.

Summary of Sweden’s Report to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

The Government of Sweden adopted an Action Plan against prostitution and human trafficking in 2008, consisting of five areas to measure: increased protection and support for the vulnerable, reinforced preventive work, reinforced quality and efficiency in the judicial system, increased national and international cooperation, as well as increased knowledge. Special measures targeted children and young people. An integrated follow-up of the Action Plan will take place in 2011, and will be presented to the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag.

In 2005, special penal sanctions were introduced for child rape, child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse while the area of application of these crimes was broadened by the removal of the requirement of coercion. It is not permissible under any circumstances to engage in sexual acts with children under the age of fifteen. Engaging in sexual acts with children under the age of fifteen can be considered as rape of a child, sexual exploitation of a child, sexual abuse of a child or gross sexual abuse of a child. A new provision was introduced to protect children against being exploited for sexual posing, and penal provisions were broadened to include purchase of sexual acts from children under conditions other than outright prostitution, which can ultimately lead the child into prostitution. Human trafficking for sexual purposes was introduced as a new crime in Sweden and in 2004, the area covered by the crime was expanded to include human trafficking which is not cross-border as well as human trafficking intended for other forms of exploitation than for sexual purposes, such as forced labour or the removal of body organs.

The Children’s Welfare Foundation recommends that a special knowledge centre be established in Sweden to spread and implement knowledge about sexual exploitation of children to the relevant professional groups, including, the police, social services, schools, child and youth psychiatry and others; in addition to coordinating and supporting research and evaluation in this field, the provision of advice to professionals and creating networks and working together with relevant actors, in particular, non-governmental organizations. The proposal from the Children’s Welfare Foundation is now under consideration at the Government Offices. The Media Council is organizing a campaign for safer use of the Internet by children and young people, The Young Internet. This campaign has been organized with the support of the European Union Commission and in collaboration with BRIS – Children’s Rights in Society.

By allocating one per cent of gross national income annually to development cooperation, Sweden is one of the leading countries in the world in contributing to combat the basic causes of poverty. Sweden is one of the largest regular donors to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and one of the largest donors to the United Nations Children’s Fund which works with both preventive measures such as assistance to children who are exploited through human trafficking, child pornography and child sex tourism. Sweden has contributed to extensive technical support in Moldova to improve Moldova’s legislation, enable implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the establishment of a children’s ombudsman.

Presentation of the Report of Sweden

MARIANNE JENRYD, Director General for Administrative Affairs, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden, said the Government of Sweden was fully committed to upholding and respecting its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, to which Sweden was a party. For more than two decades, respecting and implementing the rights of the child was a cornerstone of Swedish domestic as well as international policy. The Government’s specific objective on the rights of the child was to ensure that children and young people were respected, given the chance to develop, enjoyed security and allowed to participate and have an influence. The coordinated work within the Government Offices for the implementation of the policy on the rights of the child was conducted through the Convention on the Rights of Child coordination office, in the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. In December 2010, the Swedish Parliament approved a new strategy to strengthen the rights of the child proposed by the Government. The strategy expressed fundamental requirements and approaches for strengthening the rights of the child and was intended to be the basis for public sector actors in their activities to safeguard the rights of the child. The strategy would serve as guidance for the Government’s future achievements and the priorities within the policy on the rights of the child. One of the components of the strategy was to focus on the physical and mental integrity of the child which should be respected in all circumstances. The need for close cooperation between different public actors as well as early detection of and intervention for meeting the needs of both the child and the family were pointed out as strategically important in this context.

The Swedish Governmental National Action Plan for Safeguarding Children from Sexual Exploitation, adopted in 1998, was updated in 2007. In 2010, the measures presented in the Action Plan were followed-up by the Government and reported to the Swedish parliament. In 2012, in connection with the Government’s fifth report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Action Plan as a whole would be updated. Special measures targeting children and young people were also included in a National Action Plan to Combat Prostitution and Trafficking in Human Beings for Sexual Purposes, which included 36 measures to fight prostitution and trafficking for sexual purposes.

Ms. Jenryd said that legislation was the main instrument of the Government for the implementation of the provisions in the Optional Protocol. The Swedish regulatory framework was comprehensive and met well the requirements under the Protocol. Since the report was submitted in 2009, a new penal provision had entered into force to combat so-called ‘grooming’ of children for sex. The trafficking offence was amended to provide better protection and child pornography amendments were made to strengthen the protection of children. Sexual crimes against children were now considered to be more severe than before the penal reform. The Social Services Act contained rules governing cooperation between Social Welfare Services and other relevant authorities concerning children and young people who suffered or were at risk of suffering harm. The National Board of Health and Welfare, together with the National Police Board and the Swedish National Agency for School Improvement, had a joint strategy for cooperation and children should be given support and protection on the basis of a holistic view and at an early phase of unfavorable developments.

Sweden would strive to achieve the goal where no child at all could become a victim of child sex tourism. Several measures had been taken by the Swedish Government and authorities to further combat child sex tourism. In 2009, the National Bureau of Investigation, which was part of the Swedish police, was granted extra funding by the Government to increase its efforts to combat Swedish perpetrators who subjected children to sexual abuse abroad. Work on combating the sexual exploitation of children in connection with tourism and travel was of such a nature that it was necessary to cooperate across national borders and through broad alliances. Sweden was developing a European Union project against child sex tourism with a number of law enforcement and judicial agencies involved together with other public services, non-governmental organizations and academia. As a first step, Sweden intended on bringing together the existing knowledge and experiences and as a second step would bring the subject to the political level by means of a conference in Brussels. Sweden had held the Presidency of the European Union in the second part of 2009 and during this time, took the initiative to bring the issue of trafficking in children and child sex tourism forward at the European Union level.

Some Swedish surveys had shown that one third of children between the ages of 15 and 16 had been the object of some form of contact with a sexual implication from a person previously unknown to them that they thought was an adult. The majority of these children had been contacted via the Internet. One way to protect children on the Internet was to provide them and their parents and other adults with information. A greater awareness would help children to avoid the risks and pitfalls of the Internet while enabling them to benefit from the extraordinary possibilities that the Internet provided.

Questions by the Committee Experts

MARIA HERCZOG, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Sweden, said that Sweden had always been keen on protecting the rights of the child by moving forward quickly with new developments. However despite all these achievements, there were still areas in the Optional Protocol which required further attention. The economic crisis had impacted budgeting expenditure on children and in many instances there were interventions later rather than earlier, preventive interventions. Ms. Herczog said that more research was required to understand the root causes and reasons why children became victims and others became offenders. Sweden was well known for punishing offenders to decrease demand but there was still a need to understand how to prevent offences. The Committee regretted that the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols were still not integrated into national law. Were there specific reasons why a number of international instruments and treaties had not been ratified? The quality and efficiency of the judicial system, including training of those in law courts, was commended, but was there any integrated training across all professional areas.

In what way was cooperation being strengthened at the national and international level? What awareness-raising training had been done on the European Convention on Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse which came into force in 2010? Sweden had not introduced the missing child hotline, launched across Europe, and the Special Rapporteur asked why Sweden had not joined this European network. A campaign was just launched, 1 in 5, in the Council of Europe to stop violence against children, and what was Sweden’s plan to incorporate this 1 in 5 campaign into its national policy. What training was provided to parents and children to prevent the sale and trafficking and exploitation of children? Had there been public campaigns in this area to increase awareness? The Committee’s new General Comment 13 had included several paragraphs on trafficking and child pornography and had these comments been translated into Swedish and incorporated into Sweden’s national action plans.

HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Expert, said that international treaties could only be fully implemented once they were transposed into criminal domestic law and asked if all charges and criminal offences had been fully considered into Sweden’s criminal code. Notably, was there a clear definition of the crime for the sale of children and organs and child pornography material in the penal code? It appeared that the penal code had not sufficiently covered everything under Articles 2 and 3 in the Optional Protocol. Concerning sexual abuse, Mr. Kotrane asked if these were offences under social order or specific violations on their own. The duty to report was fundamental as there were cases when children would not report cases of sexual abuse and therefore there was a responsibility for adults to report this and had this been provided for as a criminal responsibility in the penal code? Swedish law had not specified the matter of universal jurisdiction and measures should be taken to do away with this gap and consistency between international legislation and national legislation.

MARTA MAURAS PEREZ, Committee Expert, asked a question about corporate responsibility and in particular in the sectors of transport, internet service providers and tourism, would the penal code be changed to reflect the offenses under the Optional Protocol. Ms. Mauras Perez noted that the Swedish Ethics Council had established a code of ethics for 4 pension funds, which were Government entities, to ensure that environmental policies were met and asked if all of the offenses included in the Optional Protocol be included in a similar code of ethics?

GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert, said that Sweden had conducted and enacted so many efforts over the last three years to combat children’s sexual exploitation. How many cases had been considered since the last three or four years by Swedish courts of Swedish nationals who had committed sexual crimes abroad? With regard to child pornography crime, the Committee believed that the exception made for minor cases of this crime should be removed. The law should be comprehensive and should extend to foreign victims living aboard. In the case of extradition cases, had the issue of double criminality been removed?

ASEIL AL-SHEHAIL, Committee Expert, said that the Committee was concerned about the lack of available data on victims of child trafficking. There was no data on all forms of sexual exploitation of children, including children that were trafficked into and out of Sweden. What was the Government’s approach in using data for policy changes and to finding the root causes of the problem?

SANPHHASIT KOOMPRAPHANT, Committee Expert, said that concerning preventive measures were there any programmes to support the psychological development of adolescents, to provide counseling and reproductive health care and how accessible were these services. Was compulsory treatment provided to child sexual offenders, what percentage of offenders received this treatment and what monitoring existed for offenders?

AWICH POLLAR, Committee Expert, said that in order to determine if an offense satisfied the requirement to qualify as a crime, was the intention to harm, considered? Was there reporting by all professionals who had come in contact with victims? What was the definition of child pornography in the law and was mere possession of child pornography a crime? Of all the crimes provided for under Articles 2 and 3 of the Optional Protocol, which required double criminality? Sweden had offered a lot of international cooperation, but had Sweden made efforts to assist child victims in their recovery, which was a requirement under the Optional Protocol?

KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Committee Expert, said that the written replies of Sweden had referred to rehabilitation programmes in Stockholm and did such services exist in other cities in Sweden? Had the Government considered developing training programmes for social services and had there been a sufficient incorporation of a child perspective on behalf of social services. Was the hotline only for missing persons, or was it a more general hotline and what other line services were being developed for children.

PETER GURAN, Committee Expert, said that concerning the role of the child Ombudsman, what possibility was there to receive and handle individual complaints from children about child prostitution and child pornography. There were more than 1,000 calls to the hotline in Sweden, but who was personally responsible for receiving these complaints and how were these complaints handled? Was there an evaluation process on how these calls to the hotline were handled? Concerning the growing number of refugee children in Sweden, were there new programmes for Roma or other groups of minority children?

JORGE CARDONA LLORENS, Committee Expert, said that in the report, 34 per cent of town councils with youngsters under the age of 18 had said they had sexual cases, however there was a small proportion of such cases brought to court and could the Swedish delegation explain this gap.

AGNES AKOSUA AIDOO, Committee Expert, said she commended the efforts made by Sweden for a long time to combat sexual exploitation of children, however, the Committee was still struggling to see if Sweden was covering, in action, the requirements of the Optional Protocol as defined in Articles 2 and 3. The Committee was very concerned about the issue of sale of children as defined in Article 3. Much work was being done in legislation, strategies, plans of action, however, was there sufficient budgetary allocation at the national and regional areas to cover critical areas, including data collection, particularly on sale, dissemination of the Optional Protocol by the State and not just by non-governmental organizations to increase awareness on the Optional Protocol, training of judges on the Protocol and coordination with the Ministry of Health on the Convention and its Protocols.

YANGHEE LEE, Committee Expert, said that sanctions for the offences under the Optional Protocol appeared to state that incitement was subject to between fines and up to two years imprisonment. Was there any data on the cases prosecuted and the sentences meted out? A new development was a criminal record check for preschool personnel. Could the delegation confirm if this requirement would be broadened to cover all professionals that came into contact with children? What services were being done with offenders to ensure there was no recidivism, especially for offenders that had been fined?

HIRANTHI WIJEMANNE, Committee Expert, said that concerning grooming, 30 per cent of Swedish teenagers had been contacted for grooming and yet there was only 1 case of prosecution. Could the delegation explain this discrepancy and what was the follow up to reporting of grooming? Was there an obligation for Internet service providers to report on child pornography? Were there cyber crime surveillance systems? Regarding the helpline, there were several hundred reports per month on the hotline, who managed the hotline and what was the follow up when children reported problems?

Response of the Delegation

Responding to the comments and questions, the delegation of Sweden said that legislation was normative and influenced peoples’ thinking. In 1979, Sweden was the first country to ban corporal punishment against children and 10 years ago had also made it illegal to pay for sex. Sweden put a great emphasis on human rights conventions and had so far decided to transform the Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic legislation rather than to integrate the articles into legislation. The Government was making a survey into the effects of this transformation on domestic legislation which would be ready next month.

There was a need to adapt the terms of the Convention to national Swedish legislation and the delegation noted that in many situations Swedish law regulated better than the Convention because the Convention was a minimum standard. Sweden had conducted considerable research before ratification of the Optional Protocols, and the Government had already determined that the law had lived up to what was defined in the Protocols and noted that Sweden would be ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Abuse. The Swedish delegation stated that there were fines for the private sector that had committed infractions under the Optional Protocol but the operations of the company could not be stopped. The crime of trafficking of human beings was a criminal offence, including purchasing a child and selling a child for sexual exploitation and the person. Under the age of 15, any sexual relations were a sexual crime, if over 15 then one could decide if they wanted to engage in a sexual act. Any sexual acts purchased from a child under 15 years of age, would be considered rape, however if older than 15 then it would still not be legal to buy sexual services and that was why there was a special crime for the act of purchasing this service. Yes, it would be a crime of buying a sexual act. There was a higher penalty to purchase a sexual act from a child than from an adult. There were some cases where the penalty was a fine but that was not the main rule. If the child was younger than 15 years old, this would be considered rape and would have a stronger penalty than the purchase of sexual services from a child between 15 and 18 years old who had the right to give sexual consent.

There were 36 measures in the action plan against human trafficking which had an expenditure of Euros 30 million, which had increased awareness among the public services in Sweden including police, judiciary, social services and migration services. A key component of the action plan was integrated training on trafficking with a focus on prevention and dealing with victims. As a result of the action plan, there was an increase in the number of offences for the purchase of a sexual service. Another key point of the action plan was coordination. Trafficking was a complex phenomenon involving many actors which required coordination guidelines for all Governmental agencies which has allowed for a centrally developed approach to trafficking. The major challenge was to roll these findings and guidelines out into the local municipalities. Managing national State actors involved in trafficking was fairly straightforward but in terms of decentralized social services there were 290 municipalities in Sweden with their own services and this posed the greatest challenge. A national support team was developed to deliver support and advice to those who would come in contact with a trafficking case perhaps only once a year. The issue of trafficking for purposes other than sexual required an action plan, and detailed work was carried out by the Ministry of Labour. Sale was definitely included in the trafficking of human beings as this often occurred in cases of trafficking for the purpose of begging.

Further Questions

Committee Experts asked about the difference between transforming and integrating the Articles of the Convention into the Swedish legal system. The Committee understood that Sweden had yet to define the offences in the Optional Protocol, which was a legal instrument, into the Swedish penal code. Would it be possible to stop the operations of a company that had engaged in offences under the Optional Protocol? If an adult purchased sex from a 17 year old, would this be considered a crime? A Committee Expert asked about references in practice in the State Party report, and would this constitute a lack of legal definition? The Committee asked, with regard to pornography, was it a crime to use a child between 15 and 18 for posing for pornography.

What was happening to children who were begging, what legislation in the criminal code applied to the parents of children who were exploited into begging? Could the delegation explain which offences required dual criminality and could the Optional Protocol be used as a basis for the judicial of extradition if there was no treaty between Sweden and other States?

Response of the Delegation

The delegation of Sweden said a new strategy for children’s rights had been developed in Sweden. Some measures in the action plan were directed toward children as victims, including training material geared toward professionals in social services including in shelters and public housing. Two key persons from each county and administrative region would be trained to spread information and awareness-raising. Concerning international cooperation and aid, Sweden was one of the few countries which had contributed 1 per cent of Gross Domestic Product to development aid and many of these funds were targeting the issues under the Optional Protocol. Examples included project work to raise awareness, data gathering and building capacity to fight trafficking in Turkey, in the Baltic region, in Kosovo, Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Belarus. Sweden also engaged in projects in Asia and Africa to support national child protection systems.

There were two specific offenses, the posing offense and the purchase of a sexual service, where Sweden still required the criteria for dual criminality and Sweden was considering reviewing this. The delegation said that it would not use the Optional Protocol for the basis of extradition because Sweden could extradite its own citizens in the European Union; however, there was a requirement of one year prison sentence in domestic legislation and dual criminality.

Concerning help lines there were some run by non-governmental organizations with the financial support of the Government. Calls were made by children or parents and specialists answered the phones and if the situation was grave, the organization would inform the child or parent that it was possible to receive support from social services in the region. A new hotline would soon be installed along with a project that would give different tools and methods for social workers to support children on line when they were in difficult circumstances.

Preliminary Concluding Remarks

MARIA HERCZOG, Special Rapporteur, in preliminary concluding remarks, said that there was still a lack of understanding on why Sweden could not integrate the two Optional Protocols into its domestic legislation and noted that this was also an issue at the European level. There was a need for greater clarification and work on defining the age of sexual consent. It was quite clear that the Swedish Government was committed to implementing as fully as possible the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols.

MARIANNE JENRYD, Director General for Administrative Affairs, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, in concluding remarks, said that the delegation would provide written answers to the remaining questions that had not been covered in today’s meeting. In September 2012 Sweden would submit its fifth periodic report on its implementation on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and at this occasion the observations and recommendations of the Committee would be considered.

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