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Published 21.05.24

Consider avatars in EU legislation to combat sexual abuse against children

Torsten Krause, SDC

The European Commission intends to further develop existing regulations to combat sexual abuse of children. The focus here is on additions that will in future also cover the forms of such violence in digital environments, strengthen the prevention of offences and the support of affected children and promote cooperation between member states in the investigation and prosecution of offences. Terminologies will also be further developed and higher penalties suggested.

In this regard the European Commission has carried out a consultation process, in which the Digital Opportunities Foundation took part. In this statement, the proposal is welcomed and supported. Nevertheless, it is pointed out that, in addition to the proposed regulations on real or technically generated digital representations of sexual abuse against children, it also seems necessary to regulate corresponding offences against avatars, as it is known that experiences of the avatar are perceived as one's own and have a comparable intensity. Sexual violence against a child's avatar can therefore have serious consequences for the child.

Furthermore, in line with paragraph 118 of the General Comment No. 25 on children´s rights in relation to the digital environment, the statement aims to legalise the consensual exchange of self-generated sexual material between children and to consider abolishing the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of children.

In order to better support victims of sexual violence in childhood, to prevent such offences and to promote the activities of the member states, the European Commission intends to set up an institution (EU Centre) with the regulation on combating and preventing sexual abuse against children. However, as this proposal has been under discussion for some time and a decision is currently not foreseeable, the Foundation is concerned that this centre may not be established.

The full statement can be found here.