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Forms of Violence: **Kidnapping**

22/04/2011  | Child Rights International Network



What is kidnapping? 

Definitions of “kidnapping” may vary from country to country. In the UK, the definition of the common law offence of kidnapping is simply to take someone, by force or fraud, without their consent and “without lawful excuse”.[1] According to the Organisation of American States, “kidnapping” means,

"unlawfully detaining a person or persons against their will (including through the use of force, threat, fraud or enticement) for the purpose of demanding for their liberation an illicit gain or any other economic gain or other material benefit; or in order to oblige someone to do or not to do something. Kidnapping, according to this definition, excludes disputes over child custody."[2]

But in national jurisdictions, it may be difficult to differentiate between abduction and kidnapping, and the definition of kidnapping in one country might be the definition of abduction in another.

Kidnapping may take place for political, criminal or emotional reasons. Kidnapping the children of wealthy parents for ransom is reported in a number of countries, including Colombia, Iraq and Somalia. Like abduction (another category of violence listed by the UN Study on Violence Against Children), kidnapping may be associated with trafficking and/or sexual violence.

Instances of kidnapping may increase in time of war or other fragile circumstances. For example, according to the UN Study on Violence Against Children (UNVC, 2006: 307), “some situations in which conflict or unrest are ongoing – such as in Northern Uganda and Nepal – have exposed children to mass kidnapping and abduction, so they can perform as fighters, porters, or be in support positions; girls have been used as sexual slaves.” 

It may also be difficult to differentiate between instances of kidnapping and unlawful detention.

CRIN has shared stories of child kidnappings in Haiti and the Central African Republic among other countries. And the Committee on the Rights of the Child has noted instances of “bridal kidnappings” in Kyrgyzstan.

For more resources on children and kidnapping, click here.



UN Study on Violence Against Children (2006). Available at: 


[1] See, for example, this article by Professor Gary Slapper in The Times: