Child Abuse on the Internet: Ending the Silence

Child Abuse on the Internet: Ending the Silence

Child Abuse on the Internet: Ending the Silence

Child Abuse on the Internet: Ending the Silence


The Internet has added a new 'virtual' variable to the problem of sexual abuse of children, particularly regarding pornography and paedophilia. This book is based on a UNESCO expert meeting in 1999 on this subject. Part one looks at the context of sexual abuse of children in the world today, and attempts to define what is understood in sociological, psychological and legal terms by child pornography and paedophilia. It then examines the phenomena of pornography and paedophilia on the Internet in detail. Part two considers the strategies that are being adopted to combat these problems, generally a combination of legal and regulatory approaches from governments, self-regulation by the Internet industry, and action by individuals, parents, civic groups and non-governmental organisations. Part three presents the declaration and plan of action adopted by the expert meeting. Annexes provide lists of websites of organisations that have made significant advances in protecting children online, discussion groups, and references.


Children have been subjected to violence – physical, psychological and sexual – since the dawn of humankind. Slaughter, enslavement and rape of children have attended war and conflict from pre-history to today's newspaper. Abraham was prepared to murder his child to honour his deity. Generations of first-born babies were killed for reasons of religious or political expediency. Children have been made to labour in the fields, among the flocks and herds, and in the factories in virtually all societies at one time or another. Throughout history and in different social and cultural contexts, female children have been considered as something less than human neglected, abandoned, killed, sexually maimed and mistreated. How many barely adolescent girls – and boys – have practised the world's oldest profession, willingly or otherwise, over the millennia?

Only in the latter half of the twentieth century did the world community formally decide of a common accord that children have rights and that violence of any kind against them constitutes abuse and an unacceptable infringement of those rights. Having adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international community has increasingly sought to find the means to protect children from abuse, to eliminate the root causes of abuse, to apprehend and heal the abuser, and to rehabilitate and reintegrate abused children so that they can live normal lives.

Sexual abuse of children in particular remains pervasive. This form of violence against children has, until very recently, remained cloaked in a silence imposed by cultural and social mores and taboos, by fear, shame and ignorance, and by the absence of a concerted and coherent response to the problem on the part of modern civil societies.

The media are to be credited for having contributed most over the last two decades of the twentieth century to confronting us, wherever we live on the planet, with the risks and the reality of sexual violence against our children. Paedophilia, child pornography, sex tourism, the no-win equation of sex-for-money-for-drugs – itself an indefatigable syndrome – as well as the . . .

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