Creating a Common Language to Address Child Sexual Exploitation

Creating a Common Language to Address Child Sexual Exploitation
“Words matter.” So begins the newest ECPAT publication, Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, analyzing the terms that should be and should not be used to describe the various ways that children are sexually abused and exploited. The report is the consensus of an international working group that grappled with both new terms (such as ”live streaming of online sexual abuse”) and old terms (“child prostitution”) that are used in our advocacy work aimed at protecting children. It takes a children’s rights approach to analyzing the words and discusses how they are embedded in international treaties and agreements, states’ laws and how they are generally understood by the public.
Some of the results are not at all surprising. “Child sex worker” and “child prostitute” should never be used to describe exploited children. Both terms actually harm children because they shift the blame for the exploitation to the children themselves. But most of the report is devoted to defining the many terms and if and when they should be employed. The section describing the difference between “commercial sexual exploitation” and “sexual exploitation” of children is especially interesting.
One of the longer sections discusses the term “child pornography. Like the term child prostitution, it is rooted in international legal instruments. It remains an important term for the definition of a crime in many countries. But the term “child sex abuse material” is increasingly being used instead of child pornography.
In 2014, ECPAT commenced the Interagency Terminology and Semantics Project, coordinated by ECPAT Luxembourg. The Project was initiated in response to the requests of members of the ECPAT Network and other NGOs working on related issues. It aimed to foster consensus among stakeholders on terminology relating to child sexual exploitation for use in policy documents, programming, legislation, advocacy, and communications.


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