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Mankind owes to the child the best that it has to give
Toward July 30, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Atina - Citizens' Association for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and All Forms of Gender-Based Violence, is sharing with you a case study on the violation of the right to privacy and data confidentiality of children victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Serbia, entitled "Mankind owes to the child the best that it has to give". The study was created within the project "Reclaiming Privacy: A Tool to Fight Oppression" which is jointly implemented by the organisations Atina, Partners Serbia, SHARE Foundation, A11 Initiative, Da se zna, and Belgrade Open School, with the support of the European Union.
Sexual abuse is one of the most severe and, in terms of consequences, the most complex forms of violence, which causes serious health, psychological, social and developmental consequences to the child. According to available UNICEF data, at least 120 million girls between the ages of 10 and 18 have been forced to have sexual intercourse or to engage in activities of inappropriate sexual content. In almost 90% of the cases, the perpetrators were known to them from before. On the other hand, data at the global level show that almost every third victim of human trafficking is a minor, with by far the largest share of girls in that number. In 82% of cases, women victims of trafficking were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, girls in 72%, while this is the case with 10% of men and 27% of boys victims of trafficking. According to the latest available data for Serbia from 2019, 64% of victims of human trafficking were persons under the age of 18, while in previous years, following the statistical data, the situation was similar, about 90% of them were girls.
When we talk about sexual abuse, it is crucial to consider the gender dimension, which is evident not only in the prevalence but also in the context and manner in which sexual violence is committed, and it is important to look at it through the lens of gender-based violence. The gender aspect is “loaded” into the relationship between the abuser and the abused child, which includes the expressed gender roles of girls and men who sexually abuse, exploit and traffic them. The gender aspect is also “loaded” into the psychological, emotional and social “response” and coping mechanisms of child victims, as well as in the relationship of child victims to responsible adults during the institutional response of the system to child sexual abuse. “A precise transversal has been determined that, until the government and society do not speak openly about sexual violence, reone cannot even talk about achieving gender equality”.
Often sexual abuse is not the only problem these children face. In the description that follows, besides the human trafficking situation and sexual abuse of a minor girl Anna, the inappropriate handling and lack of action of the competent authorities that were obliged to protect this child will be presented. A special aspect of this study concerns numerous violations of this child's privacy, with particular reference to unprofessional media reporting that contributed to further stigmatization and retraumatization of this child, which caused her irreparable damage.
When it comes to media reporting, as many as 47% of reports on children, with 31% in electronic media and 58% in the print media in Serbia, have a negative connotation. Reporting on child abuse involves individual cases of children, at the level of sensationalist and shocking journalism. A trivial number of texts and articles refer to causes and solutions. When reporting, the aim is to reveal and publish as many details as possible about the act of abuse (including the most bizarre ones), and with as many details about the victim as possible. Mere guesses and even fabricated information are presented as facts. The protection of a child's privacy, personal and family life, dignity, rights and interests, with child victims of trafficking in human beings has additional importance, especially for the protection of the child's safety and prevention of revictimization. Media information that reveals a child's identity has far-reaching consequences. In the era of electronic communication and universal availability of information via the Internet, the disclosure of data that identifies a child and exposes information that they were a victim of trafficking, that they were sexually exploited for the purpose of trafficking, paves the unobstructed way for the child to be recruited, trafficked and sexually abused again, which is also not an uncommon thing. In the media coverage in Serbia, the mechanism of victim blaming is often present, as well as stereotypes and prejudices, while misogyny and hate speech are highly noticeable.
The normative framework in force in the Republic of Serbia should be the foundation and guidance in the work of competent authorities in the fight against human trafficking and the protection of victims, which in this case was not respected. The obligation of the Republic of Serbia is to protect the children, victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, to protect their identity, privacy, personal and family life, reputation, dignity, rights and best interests of the child victim.
The Republic of Serbia has ratified several international instruments governing the protection of children, especially children victims of violence and exploitation, which determine the forms of support these children need to be provided with. In this regard, in addition to the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is important to mention several Council of Europe (CoE) instruments related to this area: the CoE Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention), the CoE Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the so-called Istanbul Convention), the CoE Convention on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, as well as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. These documents list the basic rights of victims of violence and exploitation that need to be protected, as well as the minimum services that need to be provided for their recovery. They represent the basis for legislative and other actions (such as those related to raising public awareness) that signatory countries are obliged to take in these areas. Regarding the national legislation relevant to these issues, it is important to mention that the provisions on protection and support contain acts in the field of criminal law, social and health care, but other laws as well, such as the Law on Personal Data Protection (which prescribes particular obligations when processing the personal data of children, listed below), the Law on Public Information and the Media, and the Law on Electronic Media. For certain issues, the state has adopted bylaws, to mention only the Rulebook on the protection of human rights in the field of media services and the Rulebook on the protection of the rights of minors in the field of media services. In addition to these (but not only these) normative acts that guarantee the protection of victims of violence and exploitation, and especially the protection of juvenile victims, and define the obligation of the state in this area, numerous reports sent to the Republic of Serbia by expert bodies call for this obligation. established to ensure the application of international legal instruments and to monitor the activities of the state in this regard; we can see these recommendations, for example, in the Concluding Observations of the Lanzarote Committee, or in the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which are periodically sent to Serbia, and in accordance with which the state harmonizes its internal legislation and practical actions of its institutions.
Although it does not contain detailed provisions on the protection of personal data of minors, the Law on Personal Data Protection sets higher standards for the protection of data of minors in several places. First of all, the Law sets the interest of a minor as one of the interests that may be more important than the legitimate interest of the manager of the data or a third party on which the processing of personal data is based (Article 12, paragraph 1, item 6). This means that, even when there are justified (legitimate) reasons for the processing of personal data, the processing may be illegal if in a particular case it is more important to protect the interests of the minor. Furthermore, the Law prescribes that the processing of personal data of a minor under the age of 15, in connection with the use of information society services, is possible only with the consent of the parents, i.e. legal representative of the person. Finally, the Law particularly emphasizes that the job of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection (Commissioner) is to take care of raising public awareness of risks, rules, protection measures and rights related to the processing of personal data, especially if it is about the processing of data of a minor (Article 78, paragraph 1, item 2).
Special protection of a minor is also provided by media regulations and guidelines of self-regulatory bodies. The Law on Public Information stipulates that, in order to protect the free development of the minor's personality, special care must be taken that the content of the media and the manner of media distribution do not harm the moral, intellectual, emotional or social development of the minor (Article 77), as well as that a minor must not be made recognizable in the information that may violate their right or interest (Article 80, paragraph 2). Also, the Serbian Journalists Code stipulates the obligation of journalists to ensure that a child is not endangered or exposed to risk due to the publication of their name, photograph, or video with their face, house, the community they live in, or recognizable environment.
In any case, the legal framework for the area relevant to this case study is well developed, and the obligations and competencies of the state are precisely defined. This means that there is no place for excuses about legal gaps and lack of competence of certain state bodies, which would cause their possible inaction, and leave children who are victims of violence and exploitation or are at risk, practically without protection.
The entire study can be found via the following link: http://atina.org.rs/sr/%C4%8Dove%C4%8Danstvo-duguje-deci-najbolje-%C5%A1to-ima
 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2018, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, available at: https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/2018/GLOTiP_201... assessed on 12/01/2021
 Mechanisms to adapt and overcome;
 National Study on the Social Problem of Sexual Child Abuse in the Republic of Serbia, Bogavac, Popadić, Otašević i Cucić, Incest Trauma Center Belgrade, 2015
 Media image of children in Serbia 2018, Center for Media Professionalization and Media Literacy, 2018, available at: https://www.ceprom.rs/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/PUBLIKACIJA-Medijska-slika-dece-u-Srbiji-2018..pdf, accessed on 12/01/2021
 "Blaming the victim is a mechanism according to which the roots of social problems are seen in the characteristics of groups that are endangered by these problems, instead of being seen in a system that oppresses and creates unequal conditions and opportunities for different groups. In that way, we try to solve problems without changing the real conditions that create them." D. Ćuk Milankov et al., Conflict and Social Influence, CARS, Belgrade, 2009.
 Law on Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, "Official Gazette of RS - International Agreements", No. 1/2010
 Law on Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, "Official Gazette of RS - International Agreements", No. 12/2013
 Law on Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, "Official Gazette of RS - International Agreements", No. 19/2009
 Law on Ratification of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, amended in accordance with Protocol No. 11, the Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Protocol No. 4 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms - freedoms not included in the Convention and its First Protocol, Protocol No. 6 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, Protocol No. 7 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Protocol No. 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Protocol No. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in All Circumstances, "Official Gazette of Serbia and Montenegro - International Agreements", no. 9/2003, 5/2005 and 7/2005. and "Official Gazette of RS - International Agreements", no. 12/2010 and 10/5
 "Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2018.
 "Official Gazette of RS”, No. 83/2014, 58/2015 and 12/2016 - authentic interpretation
 "Official Gazette of RS”, No. 83/2014 and 6/2016
 "Official Gazette of RS”, No. 55/2015
 "Official Gazette of RS”, No. 25/2015
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