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Child molestation. Why do we avoid accepting the problem?

As it is known, yesterday the National Assembly ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Violence. Many people welcomed the ratification, and many were concerned, complaining that the ratification of the Convention and the implementation of some of the amendments made there could undermine the child’s psychology. Naturally, many tried to gain political points.


However, the truth is that it is enough to have the words “child” and “sexual violence” in one sentence, and one can already find various interpretations. The special attitude of our Armenians towards children has even entered the linguistic field, it has become one of the most widespread expressions, for example, half-joke-half serious phrase “what we do, we do for children”.


However, why do we avoid accepting that, yes, there is child molestation in Armenia,  sexual violence, that yes, it takes  childhood from the child, and it must be prevented,  that the topic of child molestation cannot be concealed, silence about it cannot help to eliminate it.


There are topics in which the values mentioned should in fact be out of political speculations, manipulations, and perhaps the best interest of the child is from them. But politics does not spare anything on its way.


There is no public discussion


In fact, in order for the society to be positive about the initiative today, it is necessary to mention only the former authorities, which was done during the speeches of the National Assembly ratifying this convention. For their part, supporters of the previous government, and not only them, tried to present the ratification of the convention as a departure from traditional family values, a conspiracy to destroy Armenia as a threat to children, perversion, etc.


The consequence is that they start making mutual accusations, and the qualitative level of the discussion goes down to the level of personal insults. No public discourse is formed in order to discuss substantive, serious discussions, to work around one common interest, to find mechanisms against child molestation. Let’s note that the most important issues and topics are pushed to the background because of  blaming each other and not having a culture of  listening to each other.


The best interests of the child here take precedence over politics, party and narrow personal interests, and if we really do what we do for the children, we must understand that the protection of the best interests of the child cannot be left to the parent or guardian and society in general. Hopefully, because there are parents, guardians, social environments that endanger the child’s mental and emotional health, life. That is why the state guarantees the best interests of the child, develops a policy that will exclude sexual violence against any child.


Public mood


In general, the mood of the society should always be taken into account, as the society is the “consumer” of any law, and no matter how much the ratification of the convention is welcomed, especially by the NGO sector, our non-politicized citizens are very much against it. This also shows that sometimes even the NGO sector may not represent the public moods or may not be able to influence them, as the public moods can be manipulated very quickly by the forces pursuing different political interests, especially during this period. Let’s mention that for years the public has been told that the recipient of the grant is a “grant-eater”.


The NGO’s sector, in turn, often closes with its own framework still providing important seminars and trainings for a limited number of people. Negative public perceptions of the convention are mainly the omission of the authorities. Public awareness and discussions were not enough, as the Human Rights Defender said.


As a result of the discussions, it may be possible to find the best way to protect children from the same pedophiles, to teach children to protect themselves. And this is exactly what frightens the opponents of the convention. Isn’t it possible to find a way to help prevent child abuse? We haven’t tried it yet and we don’t know if it will work or not. We may try to understand that there is no way to talk to children about this topic, that we cannot find such an educational model, but there is a high probability that we will find it. And the Convention only obliges to do so through legislative or other measures.


I think it is an elitist approach to judge judgments from a safe position, to talk only about the dangers that surround children living only in fairy tales. Yes, those who are strongly opposed to ratification certainly want the best for their children, and they are sure that they know what is best for their child, but why do we judge only our children and only secure positions? Aren’t there children who are not protected? Aren’t there children who are subjected to sexual violence? How can we forget even the infamous cases of Nubarashen Special School No. 11, not take into account the statistics, why don’t we look at the issue with wide open eyes, or if we look, why don’t we see? Is this “fairytale” approach fair to even those children who are not in a good environment?


And finally, if the convention helps to save at least one child from sexual violence, it would be worth ratifying it long ago.

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