For a comprehensive explanation of terms and concepts relating to the protection of children from abuse or exploitation, review the Luxembourg Guidelines. ICMEC was one of 18 international organizations that contributed to these guidelines in an effort to build a common vocabulary, increase awareness, and ultimately increase the effectiveness of our work in the protection of children.
“…every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 1)
Child Sexual Abuse
The involvement of a child in sexual activities when the child has not yet reached the legal age for sexual activities and/or use is made of coercion, force, treats, abuse of a recognized position of trust, or abuse of a vulnerable situation, including mental or physical disability or situational dependence.
“…engaging in sexual activities with a child who, according to the relevant provisions of national law, has not reached the legal age for sexual activities” or “engaging in sexual activities with a child where: use is made of coercion, force or threats; or abuse is made of a recognised position of trust, authority or influence over the child, including within the family; or abuse is made of a particularly vulnerable situation of the child, notably because of a mental or physical disability or a situation of dependence.” (Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, Article 18)
Child Sexual Exploitation
The sexual maltreatment of children which consists of, but is not limited to, child sexual abuse, child sexual assault, child pornography, early or forced marriage. (The Protection Project, Comprehensive Legal Approaches to Combating Trafficking in Persons: An International and Comparative Perspective (2006))
Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)
Child sexual abuse material “means any representation, by whatever means, of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes.” (Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Article 2)
While most legislation uses the term “child pornography,” there has been movement globally towards the use of the term “child sexual abuse material (CSAM)” to properly convey that sexualised material depicting or otherwise representing children is indeed a representation, and a form, of child sexual abuse.
It “…is essential to use the correct terminology for crimes against children, including the description of images of sexual abuse of children, and to use the appropriate term ‘child sexual abuse material’ rather than ‘child pornography'”. (European Parliament in its Resolution on Child Sexual Abuse Online, 2015)
Commercial Child Sexual Exploitation
The sexual maltreatment of children where some form of remuneration may occur, which consists of, but is not limited to, child prostitution, early or forced marriage, sale of children, trafficking in children for sexual purposes, child sex tourism, child pornography, and child sexual performances. (The Protection Project, Comprehensive Legal Approaches to Combating Trafficking in Persons: An International and Comparative Perspective (2006))
Actions deliberately taken through the use of the Internet or other digital technologies to befriend a child and facilitate, either online or offline, sexual contact with that child. (Mike McGuire & Samantha Dowling, Cyber-enabled crimes – sexual offending against children (2013), page 12)
“…the intentional proposal, through information and communication technologies, of an adult to meet a child who has not reached the age set in application of Article 18, paragraph 2 [the age set by each country], for the purpose of committing any of the offences established in accordance with Article 18, paragraph 1.a [sexual abuse], or Article 20, paragraph 1.a [creating child pornography], against him or her, where this proposal has been followed by material acts leading to such a meeting.” (Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, Article 23)
What it means to be “missing” is defined differently around the world. While international legal instruments, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, provide a universal definition of “child,” there is no similar global consensus on how to define “missing child.”
We define “missing child” as “any person under the age of 18 whose whereabouts are unknown.” However, since children are missing due to a variety of circumstances, there are several distinct categories of missing child cases:
A child who is away from home without the permission of his or her parent(s) or legal guardian(s). The child may have voluntarily left home for a variety of reasons.
The taking, retention, or concealment of a child or children by a parent, other family member, custodian, or his or her agent, in derogation of the custody rights, including visitation rights, of another parent or family member.
The coerced and unauthorized taking of a child by someone other than a family member.
Lost, Injured or Otherwise Missing
A child who has disappeared under unknown circumstances. Facts are insufficient to determine the cause of a child’s disappearance.
Unaccompanied or Abandoned Minor
A child, not accompanied by an adult legally responsible for him or her, including those travelling alone without custodial permission, those separated by an emergency, those in a refugee situation, and those who have been abandoned or otherwise left without any adult care.
“…the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, 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.” (UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Article 3(a))