ECPAT’s most recent country overview report, published in February this year highlighted key issues faced by children in Hungary, with inadequate systems leaving children at risk of trafficking, child marriage and online sexual abuse. So what is our member organisation in Hungary doing about it? Dóri Kiss from the Hintalovon Foundation gives us an overview of the work they do, including some key achievements in recent years and challenges still faced.
Hintalovon works to raise awareness on children’s rights in Hungary. With our programs and research, we address families, schools, sports associations, hospitals, teachers, as well as decision makers, and politicians. Tackling and addressing sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children (SEC) plays a crucial role in almost every one of our programs.
A focus on the risk factors of child sexual abuse and exploitation
Hintalovon believe, that along with addressing SEC directly, it is also crucial to focus on the factors that contribute to abuse and exploitation, such as the lack of sexual education, the approach of police officers and child welfare professionals, and the general awareness and understanding of society at large. Our Child Rights Centre provides free, tailor-made, legal aid services to affected children and families. Our child safeguarding policy program, Nemecsek, provides internal guidelines for institutions such as schools to better avoid, address and manage cases or suspicions of child abuse, including SEC.
A helpline for children about sexuality, relationships, and more
Our online sexual education platform, YELON, provides fact-based, taboo-free information to children, as well as adults. On a free and anonymous chat service, children can ask questions from trained chat operators relating to their body, sexuality, relationships, mental health, and public life. This platform also operates as a helpline as children often disclose the abuse they have experienced. In such cases, chat operators, with the help of the Center, assist and support children in making the best decision for their case.
Making sure frontline workers are equipped to protect children
Through workshops we train professionals in contact with children, such as court and child welfare workers, to understand and implement the necessary sensitivity children need in legal and administrative procedures. We also conduct research, such as the annual child rights report and several in collaboration with the ECPAT Secretary and other ECPAT members.
We believe that every child matters and positively supporting one child in his/her case is just as important as bringing forward structural changes.
Since the establishment of our foundation in 2015, we succeeded to place the issue of children’s rights on the agenda within the Hungarian society, with presenting everyday issues and happenings such as posting on social media, government campaigns, from a child rights perspective. We believe that every child matters and positively supporting one child in his/her case is just as important as bringing forward structural changes. We managed to provide legal advice in 200 cases, and had up to 150 hours of chat conversation with children in 2020.
Although Hungary was among the first countries to sign the UN Child’s Rights Convention, the recognition of children’s rights remain one of the lowest in Europe. In practice and in our work, this means that it can be difficult to advocate for children’s rights, as it still an unknown issue and, in some cases, a misunderstood concept.
It is difficult to navigate in a legal and political environment where rights where the influence and reach of of NGOs like Hintalovon is weakening day by day, therefore, we have limited opportunities to advocate for child rights through research, educational activities and presence in the public life. However, we are steadfast in our goal to give voice to the need for children’s rights perspective, as it has a direct mpact on the well-being of children.
Adapting our work in line with changing realities
Due to the high number of cases Hungary experienced and due to government regulations, we had to entirely reframe our operations. We terminated our sex education chat service, and tried to post more articles on YELON focusing on children’s well-being, such as: ‘how to deal with the negative consequences of lockdowns’, school closures, isolation, and ‘the fear of missing out (FOMO)’. With the Center, we operated an online child rights consultation service two times a week, and we advised adults in child rights matters , such as school closures, visitation rights between separated parents, and the increase of domestic abuse. We had to postpone trainings, workshops, including our planned training for hotel personnel on sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.
Learn about their Child Rights Report 2020 ↓↓↓