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European Commission Representation in Cyprus
News article6 February 2024Representation in Cyprus5 min read

The fight against child sexual abuse receives new impetus with updated criminal law rules

Today, the Commission is adopting a proposal to update the criminal law rules on child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

Today, the Commission is adopting a proposal to update the criminal law rules on child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime which has evolved significantly over the past years. These revised rules expand the definitions of offences and introduce higher penalties and more specific requirements for prevention and assistance to victims. They are complementary to the proposal for a Regulation that the Commission put forward in 2022 – which sets out obligations for internet companies to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse material on their services.

The threat of abuse is real and has increased throughout the EU. For example, paedophile manuals continue to appear online, showing an increased threat to the most vulnerable. Both increased online presence of children and the technological developments create new possibilities for abuse.  Only in 2022, there were 1.5 million reports of child sexual abuse in the EU.

The current EU rules in this area were agreed in 2011. They need to be adapted to address the latest developments and to strengthen the prevention and protection of victims. Key aspects of the proposal include:

  • Expanding the definition of criminal offences related to child sexual abuse across Member States: these new offences include livestreaming of child sexual abuse and the possession and exchange of pedophile manuals. The new rules also update the definitions of the crime to include child sexual abuse material in deep fakes or AI-generated material.
  • Strengthening prosecution, prevention and support: The proposal will set a longer time period during which victims can report the sexual abuse they suffered and seek action against the offender. The new rules will also grant victims a right to financial compensation, to address the long-term harms that child sexual abuse causes. In addition, Member States are required to put in place a coordination mechanism to make best use of available programmes on prevention and assistance to victims.
  • Stepping up prevention: Member States are also asked to step up investment in awareness raising especially for online risks to ensure that the internet is safer and better for children and young people. In addition, new requirements will ensure recruiters for activities involving close contact with children and for organisations working against child sexual abuse must request the criminal records of the candidates.
  • There will also be mandatory reporting of an offence at least by professionals working in close contact with children to address a major challenge in the efforts to stop child sexual abuse.

Next steps

It is now for the European Parliament and the Council to agree on the proposal. Once adopted, the new Directive will amend the current one and enter into force 20 days following its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. 


One in five children suffer from some form of sexual violence, offline and online. The internet has greatly worsened the spread of child sexual abuse, allowing perpetrators to meet online and instantaneously share videos and pictures of severe sexual violence against children - often very young children. With this proposal, the Commission continues its implementation of the 2020-2025 EU strategy for a More Effective Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse. Combating violence against children and ensuring child protection is one of the objectives of the 2021 EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child. The recast of the Directive 2011/93/EU attempts to ensure that all Member States uphold the principles of the child-friendly approach to justice, as provided by the Barnahus model[1].

The Commission will present in March 2024 a Commission Recommendation on integrated child protections systems, reinforcing measures to protect children against all forms of violence, including abuse online.  

For More Information

Recast proposal of the Directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child sexual abuse material  

Child sexual abuse - European Commission (

EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child

Proposal for a Regulation 2022 laying down rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse

Proposal Interim Regulation extension

[1] Barnahus (Children's House) is a European response model for child sexual abuse that coordinates parallel criminal and child welfare investigations, brings all relevant services under one roof, and thus helps avoid revictimisation of the child.



Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a heinous crime with life-long traumatic consequences for children. We are strongly committed to make the protection of our children and their rights from all forms of violence a key priority in our work. With this updated Directive, we are strengthening protection, prevention, awareness and support towards achieving a secure and nurturing environment for the most vulnerable. Our children’s safety is our responsibility, and we will not give up. Because every child matters.

Vice-President Dubravka Šuica


Our work to build an EU Security Union includes cracking down on the despicable crime of child sexual abuse. We are closing down the loopholes that allow criminals to perpetrate their crimes – online and off. With a new set of criminal laws, we will make it easier to prosecute offenders, facilitate investigations and provide better assistance to victims. We are also placing a renewed emphasis on prevention, to ensure we are not just responding to incidents of exploitation but proactively eliminating the conditions that foster exploitation in the first place.

Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life


Fast evolving technologies are creating new possibilities for child sexual abuse online, and raises challenges for law enforcement to investigate this extremely serious and wide spread crime. A strong criminal law is essential and today we are taking a key step to ensure that we have effective legal tools to rescue children and bring perpetrators to justice. We are delivering on our commitments made in the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against Child sexual abuse presented in July 2020

Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs


Publication date
6 February 2024 (Last updated on: 6 February 2024)
Representation in Cyprus