Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation is an act or acts committed through non-consensual abuse or exploitation of another person’s sexuality for the purpose of sexual gratification, financial gain, personal benefit or advantage, or any other non-legitimate purpose.

The act or acts of sexual exploitation are prohibited even though the behavior does not constitute one of the other sexual misconduct offenses.

In overall, Actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.

Sexual abuse: Actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.

Examples of sexual exploitation include:

  • Observing another individual’s nudity or sexual activity or allowing another to observe consensual sexual activity without the knowledge and consent of all parties involved
  • Non-consensual streaming of images, photography, video, or audio recording of sexual activity or nudity, or distribution of such without the knowledge and consent of all parties involved
  • Prostituting another individual
  • Exposing another’s genitals in non-consensual circumstances
  • Knowingly exposing another individual to a sexually transmitted disease or virus without that individual’s knowledge
  • Inducing incapacitation for the purpose of making another person vulnerable to non-consensual sexual activity.

What can Sexual Exploitation look like?

Sexual exploitation occurs when a person abuses or exploits another person’s sexuality without that person’s consent. Sexual exploitation can look like:

  • Recording images or audio (without that person's consent) of:
    • Sexual activity
    • Intimate body parts
    • Nakedness
  • Distributing images or audio with the content above if the person distributing them does not have that person's explicit consent.
  • “Revenge pornography” in which a person threatens to post -- or actually does post -- images, audio, or video of their partner participating in sexual activity.
  • Viewing another person’s sexual activity, intimate body parts, or nakedness without their consent in a place where that person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy
  • Exposing someone’s genitals without their consent

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.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a commercial transaction that involves the sexual exploitation of a child, such as the prostitution of children, child pornography, and the (often related) sale and trafficking of children. CSEC may involve coercion and violence against children, economic exploitation, forced labor, contemporary slavery

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 labor, 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 parlors, 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.)

 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 pedophiles.

What is child sexual exploitation?

Before explaining child sexual exploitation, it is helpful to understand what is meant by the age of consent (the age at which it is legal to have sex).

It is illegal to take, show or distribute indecent photographs of children, or to pay or arrange for sexual services from children.

It is also against the law if someone in a position of trust (such as a teacher) has sex with a person under 18 that they have responsibility for.

Child sexual exploitation is when people use the power they have over young people to sexually abuse them. Their power may result from a difference in age, gender, intellect, strength, money or other resources.

People often think of child sexual exploitation in terms of serious organized crime, but it also covers abuse in relationships and may involve informal exchanges of sex for something a child wants or needs, such as accommodation, gifts, cigarettes or attention. Some children are "groomed" through "boyfriends" who then force the child or young person into having sex with friends or associates.

Sexual abuse covers penetrative sexual acts, sexual touching, masturbation and the misuse of sexual images – such as on the internet or by mobile phone.

Part of the challenge of tackling child sexual exploitation is that the children and young people involved may not understand that non-consensual sex (sex they haven't agreed to) or forced sex – including oral sex – is rape.

Which children are affected?

Any child or young person can be a victim of sexual exploitation, but children are believed to be at greater risk of being sexually exploited if they:

  • are homeless
  • have feelings of low self-esteem
  • have had a recent bereavement or loss
  • are in care
  • are a young carer

Child sexual abuse, also called child molestation, is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include engaging in sexual activities with a child (whether by asking or pressuring, or by other means), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.), child grooming, child sexual exploitation  or using a child to produce child pornography.

Child sexual abuse can occur in a variety of settings, including home, school, or work (in places where child labor is common). Child marriage is one of the main forms of child sexual abuse;



Child pornography is a multibillion-dollar enterprise that includes photographs, books, audiotapes, videos and more. These images depict children performing sexual acts with other children, adults, and other objects. The children are subjected to exploitation, rape, pedophilia, and in extreme cases, murder. Pornography is often used as a gateway into the sex trade industry. Many pimps force children into pornography as a way of conditioning them to believe that what they are doing is acceptable. The pimps may then use the pornography to blackmail the child and extort money from clients


Prostitution is known as one of the youngest professions. Nearly eighty percent of adult prostitutes entered the industry between eleven and fourteen

Children forced or convinced to engage in prostitution often suffer irreparable damage to their physical and mental health. They face early pregnancy and risk sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV. They are often inadequately protected by the law and may be treated as criminals.

Child sex tourism

Some people travel to engage in child sex tourism. Sex tourism and sex trafficking both generate revenue for a country. Many travel agencies offer information and guides on exotic entertainment further encouraging men to travel for sexual purposes Sex tourists bring money to underdeveloped economies that rely on the exploitation of their women and children for revenue.

Back to top