The United Kingdom must ratify the Lanzarote Convention on protecting children against sexual violence, according to the Secretary General of the 47-nation Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland.

Following Norway’s ratification earlier today, the UK and Ireland are now among only four Council of Europe member states (and the only EU members) yet to have ratified the treaty.

“Sexual abuse of children is a most heinous crime that is sadly all too common in Europe. Today, Norway is joining the fight against it by ratifying the Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Convention,” said Jagland on June 13. “This leaves only four Council of Europe member states – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ireland and the United Kingdom – who have not yet ratified this essential treaty providing better legal protection for children against abuse. I welcome Norway’s ratification of the Lanzarote Convention and call on the remaining countries to join the cause.”

The Secretary General’s Spokesperson also published the following tweet: #Child #abuse is a reality in Europe. The Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Convention criminalizes all kinds of sex and #online #offences against children. #Norway ratified it today, but #Ireland, #UK need to follow.

According to EU data, sexual abuse is one of the worst forms of violence against children in Europe. One in five children under the age of 18 is a victim of sexual violence, and in 70 to 85% of reported cases the perpetrator is a family member or another person the child trusts, such as a family friend, sports trainer or faith leader. It is estimated, however, that 90% of cases of abuse are not reported to the police.

The Lanzarote Convention requires criminalisation of all kinds of sexual offences against children. It also requires its Parties to establish specific legislation and take measures to prevent sexual violence against children, to protect the victims and to prosecute the perpetrators.

The Convention has been ratified by 43 out of 47 states-members of the Council of Europe. In Europe, only Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ireland and the UK still remain outside the space of legal protection offered by the Lanzarote Convention.