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Foto: Arenda Oomen

Protecting children is what inspires Cleveringa professor Dettmeijer-Vermeulen

Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, the well-known legal expert and Leiden University alumna, was for many years the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children. On 26 November she will deliver the Cleveringa lecture.

Throughout her career Dettmeijer-Vermeulen (69) has dedicated herself to protecting victims and prosecuting offenders. As the National Rapporteur from 2006 to the end of 2017, she reported to the government on the nature and extent of human trafficking and sexual violence against children in the Netherlands. She monitored the effects of government policies and made recommendations aimed at improving its approach to combating these crimes. The fight against human trafficking revolves around issues such as justice, freedom and responsibility, and these are also the themes of the Cleveringa chair (see text box below). Dettmeijer-Vermeulen is now a member of the Expert Advisory Board of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery.

Vast extent of child abuse

In her last statement as the National Rapporteur at the end of 2017, she expressed her concerns about the still vast extent of sexual abuse. ‘One in three children experiences a form of punishable sexual violence at some time. That is a very large number. Nevertheless, among the reactions to #MeToo, I hear comments like: ‘Isn’t it going too far?’ or ‘This is making it into a big problem’. What I would like to say to the people who react in this way is: it is not being made into a big problem, it is a big problem.’ She urged the new government and our whole society to do even more in the area of prevention and control, because otherwise she fears that children will continue to be victims of abuse on a large scale.

Human Trafficking Taskforce

Dettmeijer-Vermeulen studied Dutch Law at Leiden University. After training as a judge, she worked for five years as a public prosecutor, specialising in cases involving juvenile law. She also specialised in this field in her later work as a judge and vice-president of the District Court of The Hague. In addition to her regular work, Dettmeijer-Vermeulen has been a member of various (international) committees and advisory bodies, such as the Human Trafficking Taskforce in the Netherlands and the High-level Global Taskforce to End Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism. The feminist monthly magazine Opzij included her in the Opzij Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the Netherlands in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Each year the University commemorates the victims of the Second World War and the protest speech of Rudolph Cleveringa, the dean of the Law Faculty. On 26 November 1940 he protested against the dismissal of his Jewish colleague Eduard Meijers, after which he was arrested. The Cleveringa chair is a rotating professorship held for one year, and each Cleveringa professor focuses on the Second World War or issues in the area of justice, freedom and responsibility.

Previous Cleveringa professors include the historians and former directors of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) Hans Blom and Marjan Schwegman, food and agriculture expert Louise Fresco, Leiden endowed professor Job Cohen and international president of Doctors Without Borders, Joanne Liu.

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