What is child sexual exploitation?

« I heard a car stopping. Three persons came out and pushed me inside the car, just like an animal. From there, I didn’t know where I was nor what was happening. After I was raped, abused and beaten, I was forced into prostitution. »

« For me, there was no solution. It was the only solution. We had to sell love but we could not be loved. I told myself my life was a prison. I was alone. I was helpless. »

Testimonies of minors victims of sexual exploitation collected by ECPAT France.

Child sexual exploitation

The International Convention on the Rights of the Child protects children from “all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”, in particular from “the exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices” as well as from “the exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials” (article 34).

The concept of child sexual exploitation is characterized by the underlying notion of “reward” (money, gifts, food, promises of a better future…). Child sexual exploitation can take several forms (prostitution, pornography, trafficking). It turns children into products or sexual objects.

For additional information on semantics, have a look at ECPAT’s Terminology Guide.

What does the law state?

According to Article 1 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the term child means “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”.

Belgium has a number of laws aimed at prosecuting and punishing the various forms of child sexual exploitation, such as pimping (art.379, 380 et seq. from the Belgian Penal Code), sexual predation online (art.377 433 bis), the production/distribution of child pornography (art.383 bis) and human trafficking (art.433 quinquies). It also condemns practices that may lead to child sexual exploitation such as genital mutilation (art. 409), indecent assault (art.372) and rape (art.375).

However, it remains difficult to evaluate the number of victims: identification and access to justice remain extremely challenging.

To learn more about the causes and consequences of child sexual exploitation, you may check ECPAT’s Q & A on the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

What about crimes perpetrated abroad?

In 1995, Belgium adopted a law facilitating the prosecution of child sexual abuse perpetrators who committed their crime abroad. With this law, anyone found on the Belgian territory and having committed child sexual abuse abroad may be prosecuted regardless of the nationalities of the victim and perpetrator.

Additional information is available in ECPAT Belgium’s study on Fighting impunity for perpetrators of child sexual abuse abroad – What is the impact of Belgian extraterritorial legislation? as well as in ECPAT International’s Global Study on the Exploitation of Children and Tourism.

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