PM announces stricter laws for sexual abuse in tense parliamentary debate

PM announces stricter laws for sexual abuse in tense parliamentary debate

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced stricter penalties for sex offenders as part of a government response to a slew of allegations of sexual abuse in Greek theater and sports, while accusing the main opposition of being behind a mudslinging campaign on social media.

“The #MeToo is, at its core, a healthy movement,” he told lawmakers on Thursday during a debate on the government handling of the ongoing inquiry into possible child abuse, involving the forming head of the National Theatre of Greece, Dimitris Lignadis.

But the movement “should not become a victim of vulgar political exploitation,” he said and accused main opposition SYRIZA and its leader Alexis Tsipras of “left-wing Trumpism” and being behind a social media campaign to link the Conservatives with the alleged pedophilia scandal.

“The liberating movement is becoming a field of vulgar populism and vague accusations aiming to harm political opponents, as if rapists are divided into right-wing and left-wing,” he said.

Presenting some of the proposed changes to the penal code, Mitsotakis said that the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases involving minors is suspended until the victim reaches adulthood, while sexual abuse cases will be heard in court as a matter of priority. 

A new portal will also be launched, the metoo.gov.gr, where victims will be able to submit complaints via live chat and access information on sexual abuse. The government will also establish a registry for any professional who comes into contact with children and adolescents, such as coaches or people employed in summer camps and refugee structures.

Mitsotakis also fully backed the handling of the Lignadis case by Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, describing her as a “very effective minister,” but admitted that she made a “big mistake” calling Lignadis a “dangerous man” in a press conference to address the sexual abuse allegations. 

Taking the floor, Tsipras hit back at the accusations of populism, saying the responsibility for the scandal belongs to the prime minister.

“We are not going to judge or much less condemn anyone, but let us all ask ourselves. Are there are no political responsibilities that are tantamount to a political scandal?” he asked and distanced himself from the conspiracies spread in social media with the hashtag #ND_pederastes (paedophiles).

“You insist on supporting and protecting Mendoni despite the outcry from the art world,” he told Mitsotakis, noting that the culture minister did not seek a judicial probe when the first lawsuit was filed on February 6. 


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