Commercial sexual exploitation of children

What is meant by commercial sexual exploitation of children?

Commercial sexual exploitation of children is the exploitation by an adult with respect to a child or an adolescent – female or male – under 18 years old; accompanied by a payment in money or in kind to the child or adolescent (male or female) or to one or more third parties.

The ILO considers commercial sexual exploitation of children an abhorrent violation of the human rights of children and adolescents and a form of economic exploitation similar to slavery and forced labour, which also implies a crime on the part of those who use girls and boys and adolescents in the sex trade.

Commercial sexual exploitation in children includes all of the following:

  • The use of girls and boys in sexual activities remunerated in cash or in kind (commonly known as child prostitution) in the streets or indoors, in such places as brothels, discotheques, massage parlours, bars, hotels, restaurants, etc.
  • The trafficking of girls and boys and adolescents for the sex trade.
  • Child sex tourism.
  • The production, promotion and distribution of pornography involving children.
  • The use of children in sex shows (public or private.)

Similarly, the Stockholm Declaration adopted at the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (1996) defines the commercial sexual exploitation of children as “a form of coercion and violence against children (that) amounts to forced labour and a contemporary form of slavery,” while the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Palermo Protocol) defines the term “exploitation” to include “the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” The 2006 Report of the independent expert for the United Nations study on violence against children also recognizes that the exploitation of children under 18 in prostitution, child pornography and similar activities constitutes violence.

Child and adolescent victims: Who are they?

  • Girls, boys and adolescents who are victims of internal and cross-border trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
  • Girls, boys and adolescents who are engaged in prostitution either on the streets or in establishments.
  • Girls and boys who are used in pornography and sex shows.
  • Girls and boys who are used to satisfy sexual gratification of paedophiles.