I’m sure our readers would agree that so far, 2020 has fallen somewhat short on the good news front. But it was not all doom and gloom yesterday in Spain, where new legislation aimed at improving the lives and experiences of children and young people was approved by the government.
The decree for the comprehensive protection of children and young people from violence – also known as the Rhodes law after British musician and activist James Rhodes, who suffered sexual abuse in his childhood – will now be submitted to the Congreso de los Diputados to begin its parliamentary process.
If passed, the principle of children’s best interests will finally be realised, reinforcing their right to be listened to and participate in all matters that affect them. Among other things, the decree recognises the children of victims of gender-based violence as victims too, and prevents people with a sex crime history from working with children.
Another important change is the extension of the time period in which victims can report abuse they suffered as children, delaying the start of this countdown until victims turn 30 rather than 18, as is the case under existing legislation. It would also make reporting signs of violence against children and young people mandatory for all.
Following the cabinet’s meeting, the Spanish deputy prime minister and leader of the Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, apologised to all victims of abuse for which this piece of legislation comes too late, adding his commitment to prevent what happened to previous generations happening to the next.
UNICEF Spain, together with other charities, has played an active role in pushing the implementation process forward since it began in 2011. The organisation has welcomed the changes, as well as the broad consensus and social participation around the decree.
However, it has also highlighted its weaknesses, namely the lack of budget for implementation, and limitations on the protection of unaccompanied migrant children – a reminder that the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child still has a way to go not only in Spain, but elsewhere, too.
But the work goes on, because it must. We all have a role to play in protecting children and young people across the globe – and that starts with protecting their rights. At Charlotte Street Partners, we are delighted to host a special event with UNICEF UK’s Louai Al Roumani, author of Lessons from a Warzone, tomorrow from 10:30 to 11:30am. If you would like to join us, please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org for Zoom details.