What is the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)?

The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is a fundamental violation of children’s rights. Such exploitation has existed throughout history, yet it is only in recent decades that the scale of these crimes has been brought to the attention of governments and the public. CSEC comprises sexual abuse where remuneration in cash or kind is made to the child or a third person(s). The child is treated as a sexual and commercial object.

How many children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation?

Unfortunately, this is difficult to quantify. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that of the child victims of forced labour worldwide as many as one million of these children are victims of sexual exploitation. Human trafficking as an illegal industry is thought to generate billions of US dollars overall and it is believed that nearly 60% of all trafficking worldwide is for sexual exploitation, with over 20% of the victims being children. However, due to its clandestine nature and the lack of uniform and disaggregated data, making accurate calculations on the scale of sexual exploitation of children can be difficult and misleading. The evidence which does exist, however, suggests that the number of children who are victimised is increasing. The need for greater and more meaningful data is something which ECPAT strongly advocates for.

What makes children vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation?

There are multiple factors which increase a child’s vulnerability. These may include; poverty and economic inequality, illiteracy, lack of education, gender inequality, political and social instability, natural disasters, organised crime, racial or religious discrimination, and HIV status. However, the commercial sexual exploitation of children exists because there is a demand for it. Deterrence and criminal punishments are important but any efforts to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children must also recognise the need to challenge and condemn social tolerance, behaviours, beliefs and attitudes that support and sustain this demand.

Who sexually exploits children?

Child sex offenders come from all walks of life and social backgrounds. They can be found in every country and within any profession. They may be heterosexual or homosexual, and although the vast majority of child sex offenders are male, some child sex offenders are women. Child sex offenders are often referred to as ‘paedophiles’, however, a person who sexually exploits or abuses a child is not necessarily a paedophile. The term paedophile refers to a person with a sexual preference for pre-pubescent children, while many people who abuse children do not fit this definition. Child sex offenders can be divided into two categories: situational and preferential. The situational child sex offender does not have a true sexual preference for children, but engages in sex with children because the opportunity arises

What is child prostitution?

According to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the prostitution of children is “the use of a child in sexual activities for remuneration or any other form of consideration." The prostitution of children usually occurs in closed environments such as brothels, bars, clubs, private homes, or particular street zones. It is common for child prostitution to be organised by small or even large scale networks of pimps and criminal groups. However, children can also be exploited through prostitution when sexual acts are exchanged for goods and services such as housing, food, clothing, drugs, or better grades in school. In all instances, abusers are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the child for their own gratification.

What is child sex trafficking?

The trafficking of children for sexual purposes refers to the cross-border or internal, recruitment, transportation, harbouring, transfer or receipt of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Recent studies by ECPAT show that an increasing number of children are trafficked within the borders of a country and that this occurs both in developing countries as well as in more industrialised nations such as in Europe and North America.

What is child pornography/ child sexual abuse materials?

Child pornography means any representation, by whatever means, of a child (real or virtual), engaged in real or simulated sexual activities, or any representation of a child for primarily sexual purposes (OPSC Article 2 [c]). The widespread use and development of the Internet and other new technologies increasingly exposes young people to potentially exploitative situations and has made the distribution and sharing of abusive images more widespread. The production, dissemination or viewing of child pornography is child abuse and a violation of the dignity and rights of the child. Law enforcement has also noted an increasing link between consumption of child pornography and individuals sexually abusing children in person.

Why does ECPAT say child pornography, not child abuse images?

ECPAT International supports the idea of referring to child pornography as “child exploitative materials” or “child sexual abuse material” as it goes beyond static images. ECPAT is consciously using the terms “child sexual abuse materials” when engaging in public discourse or publishing content related to it. We are also using this terminology with the explanation that child sexual abuse materials should be the correct interpretation whenever the word child pornography is seen or mentioned. However, ECPAT’s legal analysis and research uses the term child pornography to avoid confusion with the existing legal documents, standards and international instruments and conventions, such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Council of Europe conventions, and also domestic legislation in each country.

What is child sex tourism?

Child sex tourism occurs when an individual travels, either within their own country or internationally, and engages in sexual acts with a child. Child sex tourists may be preferential abusers, who deliberately seek out children for sex, or may be situational abusers, who engage in sexual acts with children out of experimentation often fuelled by opportunity or a feeling of anonymity as a result of being away from their home. The rapid and global growth of low cost air travel, for example, has made airfares comparatively more accessible and so new and emerging destinations are within reach of a high number of tourists, including potential perpetrators of child sex crimes.