HM The Queen's speech at Child10 Award
The Royal Palace, Stockholm
(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Honourable Child10 Awarded Members,
400 million. That is the number of children around the world who are exposed to sexual exploitation and abuse. Every year.
400 million boys and girls who will live the rest of their lives with physical and emotional wounds – while the only scars they should have are those from riding bikes and climbing trees.
400 million violations of children’s rights – and 400 million reasons to keep fighting for them.
Ladies and gentlemen. When I founded World Childhood Foundation in 1999, sexual exploitation and abuse of children was still very much taboo. Some did not consider it a proper subject for a queen to be speaking about.
Today, more than 20 years later, the issue of sexually abused children is still uncomfortable.
Whenever I address foreign parliaments, royal courts, the United Nations, or other audiences, I see people looking down or turning their heads. It is too vile, too painful to hear about the horrific crimes that are being perpetrated against children every hour of every day.
But, thanks to the courage and determination of so many individuals and organisations – some of whom are represented here today – we have come a long way on protecting children’s rights and ensuring their safety. At home, in their communities and online.
Human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children is put on the agenda with much more urgency than it was back in the nineties.
However, we still have an enormous task ahead of us.
Children are increasingly becoming more vulnerable and at risk of exploitation. The pandemic, the war on Ukraine, the climate crisis and other factors have increased poverty around the world and forced many to flee their homes, allowing perpetrators to take advantage of their situation. As always, crises hit hardest those who are already the most vulnerable.
The Covid 19 pandemic affected over 1,5 billion children globally through school closures and reduced face-to-face interactions. Many of those children turned to the internet to fulfil their educational and social needs, thereby giving perpetrators unrestricted access to children of all ages.
The consequences of this are still not fully clear. But one thing is obvious: it has increased children’s vulnerability to exploitation manifold, making online sexual exploitation the fastest growing form of violence against children globally.
Ladies and gentlemen. The number I mentioned earlier, 400 million children every year being exposed to sexual exploitation and abuse, is in fact a conservative estimate. Perpetrators thrive on silence and shame, and so the true scale and magnitude of this problem remains to be unknown.
Tackling a problem of this magnitude requires coordination across sectors and borders. It is not an issue that can be addressed solely by authorities or NGOs.
Civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer once said: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” I think we should apply that approach on children’s rights, too: No child is safe until every child is safe. And that, my friends, is attainable only if we all participate and work together.
Dear Child10 Awarded Members: it is organisations like yours that gives me hope of a world where no child is a victim of these horrific crimes. A world where every child is safe. The work you are doing to protect children is essential in this fight and an inspiration to all of us!
I am proud that my foundation “Care About the Children” has been given the opportunity to join forces with Child10 and to support the ten exceptional awarded organisations present here today. My warmest congratulations to all of you on the recognition of your fantastic work!