For Professionals

Child pornography
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The word pornography comes from the Greek word pornographos, meaning ‘a prostitute’s letter’. Later on, a variation on this word; pornographie was used in the French language. The word pornography only came into use in the English language in 19th Century. In 1864, the word pornography was included in the Webster Dictionary, used in reference to the erotic art of Pompeii. The meaning of the word pornography has changed throughout history and what pornography means today is starkly different from what it used to.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, defines 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”. Child pornography includes photos, video and audio recordings, written narratives, passages, animations, etc. It can be distributed through magazines, books, pictures, films, DVDs, CDs, phones or computers.

Today, child pornography is also described as material depicting sexual abuse of children. A large number of those in the profession prefer this description, as material depicting sexual abuse of children can be in the form of text, images and audio of children engaging in sexual activities, video recordings, images of children’s sexual organs or child imitations, such as computer generated images. The word ‘material’ is much more widely construed than the term ‘pornography’ and includes texts, audio and video recordings and even animations. According to expert opinion, using the term ‘material reflecting sexual abuse of children’ is also better because the word pornography creates an impression that the children themselves consent to taking part in the sexual activity that is being portrayed.

There are two main types of child pornography

1) Covert pornography: which does not explicitly depict acts of a sexual nature, but portrays naked or ‘enticing’ images of children.
2) Overt pornography: which openly depicts children engaging in sexual acts.

Using children in any form of pornographic material is a form of sexual exploitation.

Material depicting sexual abuse of children existed before the internet became widely used. Although, from the beginning of the 90s, the creation and spread of the worldwide web led to a rise in the production, distribution and possession of child pornography. In 2000, the police arrested people who had stored hundreds of thousands of material depicting children being victims of sexual abuse. Creating such an ‘astonishing’ collection has become possible through the ease in which material can be circulated around the web. Today, the internet contains more than a million depictions of tens of thousands of children who are victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. It is expected that from 2000-2011 onwards, the amount of material depicting sexual abuse of children circulating online will increase. The police are finding material with children who have not already been listed on their database. Moreover, there is an increase in the amount of material with very young children and material depicting harsh and cruel treatment of children.
Producing and distributing material depicting sexual abuse of children is a criminal business worth billions of dollars. The cost of the business fluctuates at different times of the year from 3 to 20 billion dollars (according to the findings of the USA Federal Bureau). The same study also shows that 55% of the material is produced in the USA, 23% in Russia and the rest in other countries. Russia and the USA are also the main countries where these types of sites are created. Websites which have can be accessed for free are being published under internet providers of Russia, the USA, Spain, Thailand, Japan and South Korea. Material depicting sexual abuse of children is also circulated in video format in local markets. 

Who can be a victim of child pornography?

Any child can become the victim of child pornography. Although, children who live or spend a lot of time in the street, as well as children who are forced into prostitution or victims of human trafficking, are under a higher risk of being used for child pornography. Children who belong to dysfunctional or less well-of families also belong to the group of children who are most at risk. It is much easier for a pornographer to work with children. Children do not fully understand the purpose and nature of what they’re doing. For example, they can be made to pose with toys in a sexual manner without them realising. In other cases, children are first filmed naked, then they move on to filming entire scenes which are set out in a way that resembles a sexual act. In the end, quite often, real sexual acts are ‘played out’.

How is child pornography circulated?

Modern technology and the development of the internet has created new commercial opportunities for child exploiters and pornography users and supported the development of child porn circulation. Nowadays, the production and circulation of child pornography is done through the medium of information and communications technology (ICT) and the internet. To share and spread child pornography, users of child pornography use file sharing networks, news sharing forums, peer-2-peer systems and other methods. Information and communications technology also makes organised sexual exploitation and abuse of children easier for groups of commercial buyers, sex-tourists, paedophiles and human traffickers. Child sex-exploiters use mobile phones and log in to chats and other social networks to deceive and lure in children whom they can exploit. As a result, children who use ICT in their everyday lives are also at risk of being sexually exploited.

How are children exploited through pornography?

Children are exploited through pornography in a number of ways. In order to produce pornographic content, children can be lied to or forced into performing sexual acts, or recordings can be made of children being sexually exploited, without them being aware of it. This material is then circulated, sold or exchanged. Apart from this, those who use and/or possess child pornographic material, continue to exploit children as they are encouraged by the demand for child pornography. Moreover, pornographers also often use their material to force, threaten or blackmail the children used to create it.

Who takes part in producing and circulating child pornography on the internet?

The mafia or large criminal syndicates are often involved in child pornography, although nowadays, the revolution of ICT has become a serious new threat. Digital images and videos, computers, scanners, other equipment and means of communications have become more easily accessible and affordable, which has led to an increase in the methods through which child pornography can be widely circulated. In some parts of the world, such as Eastern Europe and in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, organised criminal syndicates play an important part in producing and distributing child pornography. When investigators find the children who are used for producing pornography, more often than not it is a member of the family, often a guardian, or a person close to the child who turns out to be the exploiter.

What is an internet-abuser’s plan of action?

Finding new victims is easy for internet-abusers. They go on online child forums where they meet children. Then, after chatting with them for a while and building a rapport, they meet the child in real life using a number of different methods. They can offer the children money or some other kinds of rewards. Children from less well-off families and adolescents who do not have enough pocket money are most likely to go for this trick. Sometimes, drugs are also offered. Once the child is lured in, a meeting is set in real life, which is followed by a photo-shoot. A child could also be victimised in a similar way using a webcam instead of setting up face-to-face meeting. For example, some Yahoo! Chat forums were closed down because they were being actively used by paedophiles and children were using webcams to send naked photos of themselves.

What is the effect of using children for the porn business?

Using children in the porn industry has devastating consequences. According to clinical research, children who took part in porn films regard themselves as possessions, soulless beings who could be sold. Children involved in pornography often end up being involved with drugs and prostitution. In their adult life, they have problems with their sexuality, and worst of all, children who are victims of sexual abuse often go on to abuse other children.

How can we fight against child pornography on the internet?

Fighting against child pornography on the internet is extremely difficult. The internet is an open global network of information, which does not belong to any one country. Each country battles with the problem of pornography and paedophilia in the ‘world network’, the best they can. It’s not a secret that fighting against ‘traditional’ rather than ‘virtual’ abusers is much easier. Thanks to advanced technology, it is easy to draw children into the porn industry. Moreover, children can be victimised without them realising the nature of the abuser’s acts. This crime targets what is most valuable to us – healthy social development of mankind, which is why it is so important to fight against it.

In order to fight against child pornography and paedophilia on the internet, it is necessary to put in place new and effective systems and legal measures. For example, a group of internet users in Sweden created an organisation to fight against web pornography. They created the website www.getsomerial.com, which encourages visitors to create fictitious porn sites with provoking titles, such as www.getsomerial.com, www.hot-girlshugary.com, etc. In reality, there is no pornography on these sites. Instead, the organisation publishes material which aims to shame those going on child (or other) pornography sites. According to the creator of the site, “the main aim is to force porn users to understand that they have chosen the wrong path”.

In order for the scheme to work, the administrators of the site placed these fictitious websites on popular search engines, such as Yahoo!. Pornography users use key words to find sites that they’re interested in, such as ‘schoolgirls’ or ‘girls under 18’.

However, the fight against child pornography is not always carried out through such peaceful means. For example, in Croatia a police operation against child pornography, dubbed ‘The Purgatory’, took place. The operation aimed to abolish the network of child pornography distribution in the country. Croatian authorities searched 50 properties which they suspected were being used for porn production. They confiscated 50 computers, more than 3,000 CDs, nearly 1,500 disks and more than 150 videocassettes.

This was the biggest operation carried out in Europe, initiated after the discovery of the children who were being used in porn production. In the last 5 years, hundreds of operations have been carried out to fight against the sexual exploitation of children. As a result, the database has been enriched, and strong collaborations have been founded.

Governments, alongside NGOS, UNICEF and other United Nations institutions have agreed on a global collaboration to fight against the sexual exploitation of children. The plan of actions aims to make the collaboration more effective by improving communication and organisation, tightening prohibitive measures, strengthening defences, rehabilitating the victims, and encouraging young people (to) join in the fight.

In many countries, the legislation against pornography is not effective. This legal vacuum lets many go unpunished and puts children under the risk of abuse. Moreover, in most countries the age of consent to sexual relations is different. In many countries, this age is different from the age specified in anti-child-pornography legislation, which creates difficulties when the law is put into practice.



Ketevan Tavartkiladze
Psychologist at Public Health Foundation of Georgia (PHF)