CYPRUS: Gaps in Law Leave Women Open to Abuse

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Cyprus Mail
Western Europe
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Young children and women are vulnerable to sexual exploitation because of gaps in the law and the lack of its implementation as well as absence of a national policy, parliament's Human Rights Committee yesterday said.

“The way the law goes… clinics are not checked to see if they've delivered the papers parents need to register their child's birth,” Protection of Children's Rights Commissioner, Leda Koursoumba, said. She was referring to allegations that necessary documents were not issued by a doctor as a way to pressurise the paying of medical expenses.

The repercussions of non-registered births were elaborated by DISY's Stella Kyriakidou: “these children are not registered anywhere and could very well be victims of exploitation”.

The conditions for exploitation are set up, Kyriakidou suggested, by “the lack of a comparison process between how many babies are born in private clinics and how many are registered in the population census.”

A battery of issues was touched on during the committee's discussion, including surrogacy.

“There is a complete lack of regulation of assisted births especially regarding surrogate mothers,” Koursoumba said, adding that this was “a huge gap which could lead to trafficking of children.”

In addition, the lack of co-ordination on a national and European level seems to be muddying the waters.

In Cyprus, “the issue of abuse is a grey area because we don't have a national archive to analyse data,” Koursoumba said.

The Council of Europe has been insisting we ratify the directive to combat violence against children, including sexual violence, abuse and trafficking, Koursoumba added.

The directive looks to cover action on multiple fronts and improving implementation on a national level by monitoring the application of legislation.

If it finds that EU countries violate the rules, it will be in a position to refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Yesterday's discussion was a follow-up on allegations of a baby trade and an illegal adoption ring, brought to the fore by the police anti-trafficking unit's Rita Superman at the committee's meeting last week.

Police spokesman, Michalis Katsounotos, stated the next day that the discussion was more theoretical than based on actual fact.

“Superman has not retracted a single thing from what she said last week, that there are incidents of women who fall pregnant and are shut in apartments to give birth,” EDEK's Roula Mavronikola said, adding however that none of the allegations could be confirmed at present.

Currently a single case is being investigated, Katsounotos said last week.

In total 52 women were trafficking victims in 2010, Mavronikola said.

“Sexual exploitation is a well guarded secret as you know,” Kyriakidou said earlier during the discussion.