Universally agreed terminology


  • The use of universally-agreed terminology relating to CSEA to enable information and ideas to be communicated rapidly and legibly amongst all stakeholders.

Why is it needed?

  • The use of universally-agreed terminology will ensure consistency of understanding, context and response across all stakeholders.
  • Inconsistent use of terminology can lead to differing responses, legislation and understanding on the same issue.
  • The absence of international agreement on CSEA-related terminology definition has impacted the global fight to eradicate the crime: levels of protection afforded to children at the national level are inconsistent; data collection and identification of different methods of sexual exploitation and abuse suffer from inaccuracy and imprecision; communication of information between international stakeholders can be misunderstood and advocacy work is undermined by confusion in the use of language and terms.
  • The ongoing debate over the term ‘child pornography’ is a prime example, the term is rejected by many law enforcement agencies and the international child protection community on the basis that it is not victim-centred language and can inadvertently legitimise child sexual abuse material by using the term ‘pornography’.
  • In the context of international/cross-border CSEA, the difficulties of not having universally-agreed terminology are magnified. This can impact upon investigations and prosecutions when the same terms are used to refer to different actions/crimes, creating misunderstanding about the situation.

Good practice

  • The ‘Interagency Terminology and Semantics Project’ began in September 2014 at the initiative of the non-governmental organisation ECPAT International. The project’s Working Group on Sexual Exploitation of Children had 18 major stakeholder participants in the field of child protection and conducted research and analysis to produce a set of global terminology guidelines. These were endorsed by the group of organisations and launched in June 2016.They are known as the ‘Luxembourg Guidelines’.
  • The Luxembourg Guidelines are available in English, French and Spanish. The multi-lingual approach is to ensure that the terminology accurately reflects the nuances of each language and are not mere literal translations of the English text.
  • The guidelines are available to all major child protection agencies and organisations around the world, as well as lawmakers and media to offer practical guidance on navigating the complex lexicon of CSEA terms commonly used.