Appropriate terminology

We encourage the use of appropriate terminology to avoid trivializing the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

There is a clear need for police and their partners to ‘speak the same language’, particularly in the context of victim identification, in order to strengthen data collection and cooperation across agencies, sectors and countries.

Serious crime, serious definition

Child sexual exploitation is not a crime we take lightly. In fact, we want you to cringe when you hear the terms “child porn” or “kiddy porn”.

Why? Because children whose sexual abuse has been photographed or filmed deserve to be protected and respected. The seriousness of their abuse should not be reduced by words such as "porn".

Pornography is a term used for adults engaging in consensual sexual acts distributed (mostly) legally to the general public for their sexual pleasure.

When children are involved, it’s not porn. It’s abuse. It’s a crime.

Terms such as "kiddy porn" and "child porn" are also used by criminals and should not be legitimate language used by law enforcement, judiciary, the public or media.

We call on the global law enforcement community to contribute to a cultural change by being precise in the way that such crimes are described.

A key resource: The Luxembourg Guidelines

The Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as the Luxembourg Guidelines, offer clear guidance on how to navigate the complex lexicon of terms commonly used when addressing the exploitation and sexual abuse of children.

The Luxembourg Guidelines were developed by a group of 18 international partners, including INTERPOL. We consider these guidelines to be best practice and recommend their use to law enforcement across the globe.

The below table provides some key examples of terms which should be avoided when referring to child sexual abuse.

Terms to be used with caution, or avoided completelyRecommended
Child pornographyChild sexual abuse
Child sex tourismSexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism
Child sex touristTravelling perpetrators of child sexual offences
Child prostitutionExploitation of children in/for prostitution
Child prostitute, child sex workerVictim of sexual exploitation
Customer, client, JohnAbuser, child sex offender
Webcam child sex tourism / webcam child sex abuseLive online child sexual abuse