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Ending Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation is when someone abuses another person’s vulnerability or their own position of power or trust for sexual purposes. It can occur within intimate and/or established relationships, as well as in commercial and/or transactional contexts, and can also involve other crimes such as illegal trafficking and/or child abuse.

The challenge

Intersecting forms of systematic and structural discrimination mean that globally, it is women and girls who are most at risk of experiencing sexual exploitation. International human rights law protects a person’s right to be free from exploitation, yet governments and international bodies are failing to uphold these rights for millions of women and girls around the world.

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Radhika – India

I set up a Facebook profile and received a friend request from a man I didn’t know. I saw a few of my family were connected…

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Steve Grocki expert interview – United States

Steve Grocki is the Chief of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation & Obscenity Section, US Department of Justice …

Our response

We recognize that sexual exploitation is a complex issue and acknowledge that as part of a hugely diverse gender equality movement, we will not always agree with others on the best approach to addressing it. Nonetheless, we are committed to engaging with integrity and respect while always keeping the well-being of survivors at the center of any intervention.

We combine international advocacy with regional and national projects and campaigns to address the legislative, procedural, and socio-cultural drivers of sexual exploitation.

Find out more about our work to end sexual exploitation

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Ending Sexual Exploitation in Africa

Sexual exploitation occurs on a continuum that includes many forms of coercion and predatory actions including trafficking fo...

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Ending Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Globally

What is the problem? Online sexual exploitation and abuse (OSEA), which encompasses a number of sexually exploitative and har...

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Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism

Equality Now tackles sexual exploitation in travel and tourism, often called “sex tourism”, a global issue that cuts acro...

Our impact

We promote digital rights

We work closely with allies from every sector in challenging and holding to account those with the power to prevent online sexual exploitation and abuse (OSEA). In 2022, we secured a significant role in the digital rights space through a partnership with Women Leading in AI and the joint launch of the Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi). We are drawing global attention to OSEA and the need for international law and policy reform.

We work across borders

We bring together stakeholders from every part of the world to challenge sex trafficking, sex tourism, and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. In 2001, Equality Now led a global coalition for the passage of the Palermo Protocol, a groundbreaking legal instrument that enshrined protection from trafficking of persons in international law. We continue to create and sustain gendered narratives on sexual exploitation at every level.

We prioritize gender

We draw global attention to the highly gendered nature of sexual exploitation, and the need to treat it as a form of structural, sex and gender based discrimination. In 2020, our ongoing advocacy prompted the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to affirm sexual exploitation as “a form of gender- based violence.” To effectively address sexual exploitation, we believe it is essential to recognize it as a gendered issue.

Our impact in focus: Promoting safety, freedom, and dignity in the digital world

In 2022, we secured a significant role in the digital rights space through our strategic partnership with Women Leading in AI and the launch of the Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi). Through AUDRi, we are collaborating with a wide range of partners to understand the opportunities and challenges presented by digital technologies and networks to women, girls, and other people from discriminated-against groups so that everyone can enjoy equal rights and freedoms – however, they exist and connect in the digital world.

To inform our advocacy through AUDRi, we used evidence from our consultations with organizations, including Amnesty International, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the Web Foundation, and POLICY, to formulate the following nine universal digital rights standards, each underpinned by an intersectional feminist, anti-discrimination analysis:

  • UNIVERSAL AND EQUAL RIGHTS: Everyone has an equal right to protection, opportunity, and respect, including in the digital realm. 
  • PERSONAL SAFETY AND DATA PRIVACY: Everyone has a right to control information about themselves and to secure protection from digital harm.
  • DIGITAL SELF-DETERMINATION: Everyone has a right to exercise self-determination in the use of digital technologies.
  • DIGITAL ACCESS FOR ALL: Everyone has a right to access the digital realm and to be free to participate in digital life.
  • FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND ASSOCIATION: Everyone has a right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association online.
  • SECURE, STABLE AND RESILIENT NETWORKS: Everyone has a right to benefit from secure, stable, and resilient digital networks and technologies.
  • LINGUISTIC AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY: Everyone has a right to use any language of their choice to create and share digital information.
  • UNIVERSAL STANDARDS AND REGULATION: Everyone has an equal right to benefit from the development and use of digital technology.
  • GOOD DIGITAL GOVERNANCE: Everyone has the right to multilateral, democratic oversight of the internet and digital technologies.

News and resources

Read the latest news and insights

The rise of deepfake image-based sexual abuse necessitates urgent and comprehensive responses from technological innovation, legal reform, and societal awareness   

January 22, 2024

A new research brief, co-authored with AUDRi with support from law firm Hogan Lovells, Deepfake image-based sexual abuse, tec...

Stalling at The Crossroads of Artificial Intelligence – The Time to Act is Now 

December 1, 2023

By S. Mona Sinha, Global Executive Director at Equality Now, and Ivana Bartoletti, Co-Founder of the Alliance for Universal D...

UNHRC Adopts Our Recommendations to the US

November 13, 2023

In September 2023, Equality Now, with the ERA Coalition, Unchained at Last, the US End FGM/C Network, and the Alliance for Un...

Browse our key resources

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What will the impact of the metaverse be on human vulnerability?

12 July 2023

There is much hype around the development of the metaverse, a new digital space which has the potential to be so real and imm...

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Ending Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Women and Girls: A Call for International Standards

15 November 2021

Online sexual exploitation and abuse are growing at an alarming pace globally. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable as...

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Enhancing Policy Responses to Addressing Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA) in Kenya

12 January 2023

Every year, over 400 million children around the world are exposed to child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). Defined as ...

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Combating trafficking for sexual exploitation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

30 July 2020

To mark World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2020, Equality Now released Combating trafficking for sexual exploitati...

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Equality Now response to the UK Government Online Harms White Paper 2019

01 July 2019

The following was submitted to the UK Government in response to the consultation on the Online Harms White Paper publish...

Voices and stories

Learn from the people we work with

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Sarah Cooper - United States

I was 12 or 13 when I first got a Facebook account. Early on, I would aimlessly go online once or twice a day for an hour or ...

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Ruby - United Kingdom

This interview was shared with Equality Now through #myimagemychoice, a survivor-led coalition asking for trauma-informed gl...

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Modupe - Nigeria

I was 16 years old when I started accessing the internet. I had a friend who knew about things. She introduced me to Facebook...

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