Labour Rights

Children are sexually exploited at work


All children have the right to life, liberty and security of person.


Child sexual exploitation involves the mistreatment, abuse or taking advantage of children for personal profit and gain and is one of the most serious violations of the rights of the child. Child sexual exploitation has serious short-term and long-term consequences, including a high risk of physical abuse, malnutrition, sexually transmitted diseases and mental illness.


Children should only work if they are above the legal working age, or the work is not harmful to the child’s physical and mental development; otherwise, the work amounts to child labour. Children (up to the age of 18), and particularly children experiencing poverty, are at an increased risk of sexual exploitation and becoming victims of sex trafficking, commercial sex work and child pornography.


All workplaces must be vigilant and have robust working-with-children policies to ensure persons in positions of power do not use their positions to sexually abuse a child, including by forcing a child to engage in sexual acts in exchange for something in return such as food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gifts, money or security. The presence of risk factors and the absence of protective factors in the workplace may heighten a child’s vulnerability. Businesses should conduct a risk assessment to identify the presence of such risk factors and implement procedures for their mitigation. Poverty is considered a primary root cause of exploitative work practices and sexual exploitation of children, therefore businesses should consider the heightened risk where children come from impoverished areas.

Relevant Human Rights Instruments

Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, Articles 19 and 34
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, 2000, Article 2
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article 3
Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, 2007, Article 18
Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182), Articles 2 and 3



SDG 8.7

Preventing or eliminating child sexual exploitation, child labour and abuse of child workers lead to the achievement of SDG 8.7: Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.

SDG 16


SDG 16.2

Preventing or mitigating sexual exploitation of child workers assists in achieving SDG 16.2: End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.