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Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children
76th session of the General Assembly
Issued by Special Procedures
Sale of children, Sexual exploitation of children
In the present report, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/155, the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material, presents a thematic study on the gender dimension of the sexual exploitation of children and the importance of integrating a child-centred and gender-inclusive approach to combating and eradicating the scourge.
Pursuant to the Human Rights Council Human Rights Council Resolution 43/22, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material has initiated the preparation of her next thematic report to the 76th session of the General Assembly to be presented in October 2021. The Special Rapporteur has decided to dedicate her report to the gender dimension of sale and sexual exploitation of children and the importance of integrating a human rights-based and a non-binary approach to combating and eradicating the sale and sexual exploitation of children.
The Special Rapporteur has noted (A/75/210) that the focus of the mandate has in the past remained primarily on the risks to girls, paralleling the invisibility of male children who have experienced sexual abuse and/or exploitation and children who identify outside the gender binary. Indeed, research conducted globally has concluded that while sex perpetrators are overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) men, victims are mostly girls and women.1 The gender dimension of sexual exploitation has certainly been acknowledged,2 however little is known about how gender stereotypes around masculinity adversely affect boys and children who identify outside the gender binary, with little attention given to their possible vulnerability to sexual exploitation. Girls typically report rates of sexual abuse and exploitation more often than boys, although rates for boys have been found to be higher than for girls in some places and in certain organisational settings, such as single sex residential institutions.3
The increased use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to facilitate or commit sexual crimes against children has also brought an important and often forgotten aspect of these crimes to the surface: the gender dimension. Recent research has shown that, contrary to the often-held belief that almost all victims are girls, a significant proportion of boys are depicted in online child sexual abuse material. In addition, the research shows that when boys are depicted in the abuse, it is more likely to involve paraphilic themes.4
The last two decades have indeed witnessed a growing recognition that sexual exploitation and sexual violence are inextricably linked to gender construction and dynamics and are therefore better understood and addressed when this perspective is incorporated in policies and programming.5 Furthermore, the social construction of gender binaries do not fully encompass the ways in which sexual minorities, because of their characteristics, circumstances and/or living situations, may be more vulnerable to sale and sexual exploitation. These violations are usually mediated through gender - often in conjunction with factors of race, culture, class, sexual orientation or some other group characteristic.
When real or perceived gender identity does not conform to social norms, vulnerabilities tend to increase.6 There is a need to develop new gender-responsive strategies that are instrumental in addressing the demand side of sale and sexual exploitation of children and introduce a gender transformative approach that accurately depicts the different human rights violations, including by revealing underlying gender-based discrimination and violence and their root causes. This entails to addressing harmful social norms, attitudes and behaviours that normalize and perpetuate violence against children, including harmful masculinities, gender norms and stereotypes.
The Special Rapporteur seeks to explore the gender dimension of the sale and sexual exploitation of children by dedicating a thematic report to the issue of the existing evidence base, as well as the magnitude, causes, risk factors and identification tools for boys and those who identify outside the gender binary, to the risks of sexual abuse and exploitation, with a view to raising evidence-based awareness and providing context-specific and sustainable prevention services, access to child- and gender-responsive strategies, justice, protection and comprehensive care and recovery.
The Special Rapporteur will seek to understand the demand for sale and sexual exploitation of children fueled by the perception, and as a result of prevailing social norms and power dynamics, and other contingent factors, related to gender construction, such as the applicable legal and policy frameworks, social, cultural, economic and institutional constructs, including discrimination based on gender identity that foster the conditions in which the sexual exploitation of children is either ignored, tolerated or even accepted (A/HRC/31/58, para. 41).
In order to inform the preparation of her report, the Special Rapporteur would like to seek contributions from States, National Human Rights Institutions, civil society organizations, United Nations agencies, academia, international and regional organizations, corporate entities, individuals, on the following questions:
 Josenhans, V., Kavenagh, M., Smith, S., & Wekerle, C. (in press). Gender, rights and responsibilities: the need for a global analysis of the sexual exploitation of boys. Child Abuse and Neglect 110 (1).
 UNICEF (2020) Action to end child sexual abuse and exploitation, UNICEF
 ECPAT International and INTERPOL, Towards a Global Indicator on Unidentified Victims in Child Sexual Exploitation Material (2018): TOWARDS-A-GLOBAL-INDICATOR-ON-UNIDENTIFIED-VICTIMS-IN-CHILD-SEXUAL-EXPLOITATION-MATERIAL-Summary-Report.pdf (ecpat.org)
 UNICEF, Current issues No. 9, Eliminating discrimination against children and parents based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, November 2014.