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Forms of Violence: **Child pornography**

22/04/2011  | Child Rights International Network



What is child pornography?

Article 2 of the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography defines child pornography as “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.”

While Article 3 requires States Parties to criminalise “producing, distributing, disseminating, importing, exporting, offering, selling or possessing for the above purposes child pornography as defined in article 2.”

Pornography can, among other forms, be represented in live performances, photographs, motion pictures, video recordings and the recording or broadcasting of digital images. There is particular concern about the widespread distribution and accessibility of child pornography through the Internet. According to UNICEF, “as widespread and uncontrolled online access became commonplace, countless pedophile websites appeared, and child pornography made its way into the global and connected world on the screens of personal computers”  (UNICEF, 2009: viii). 

Who is responsible for child pornography?

It is difficult to describe a ‘typical’ child pornography possessor because there is no single type of person who commits this crime. 

In a US study of 1,713 people arrested for the possession of child pornography in one-year, those detained varied in terms of income, education level, marital status, and age.  Almost all were men, 91 per cent were white, and most were unmarried at the time of their crime, either because they had never married (41 per cent) or because they were separated, divorced, or widowed (21 per cent). Forty per cent of those arrested were “dual offenders,” who both sexually victimised children and possessed child pornography.[1]

What can be done about it?

Article 3(1)(c) of the OPSC obliges States Parties to punish the possession of child pornography when this possession is “for the above purposes” – producing, distributing, disseminating, importing, exporting, offering or selling; but the Committee on the Rights of the Child has nevertheless encouraged countries to prohibit simple possession (UNICEF, 2009: 12).

The production, distribution and consumption of child pornography involves a number of complex issues, and may require the assistance of a broad range of actors such as internet service providers, law enforcement authorities and pyscho-social experts in order to assist victims. UNICEF explains that, in order to implement the Optional Protocol, internet safety, reducing the demand for sexual exploitation, and travel and tourism are all issues requiring considerable attention. Law reform and implementation, assistance to survivors, and monitoring systems are also all necessary. Read more here.

However, the “scarcity of well-documented good practices is striking. Practices are often cited as positive examples based only on anecdotal evidence. Further efforts are urgently needed to identify good practices based on evidence of their impact” (UNICEF, 2009: 17).

Further Information

Read about the campaign for universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the CRC. here.

Read about the role of the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography here

For more resources on child pornography click here.


UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2009), Handbook on the the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, UNICEF: Florence. Available at:

[1] National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, USA, visit: