Fighting child sexual abuse

Directive 2011/93/EU — combating sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography

It aims at improving the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation. To achieve this, it obliges EU countries to:

adopt prevention measures;
protect child victims;
investigate and prosecute offenders.

Key Points

To facilitate the prosecution of offenders, the directive:

  • criminalises a wide range of situations of sexual abuse and exploitation (20 offences and attempts);
  • Introduces increased levels of penalties. Maximum levels set by national legislation must not be lower than levels going from 1 to 10 years of prison, depending on the seriousness of the offence. A number of aggravating circumstances should also be considered;
  • extends the statute of limitation after the victim has reached adult status;
  • removes confidentiality obstacles to reporting by professionals whose main duty is to work with children;
  • introduces extraterritorial jurisdiction for offenders who are nationals, so that they can also be prosecuted in their country for crimes they commit abroad;
  • requires that procedural obstacles to prosecuting crimes committed abroad are removed;
  • ensures that effective investigative tools must be available to the police, such as those used against organised and serious crime, and special units must be set up to identify victims of child pornography.

Protective Requirements

To protect child victims, the directive introduces rules on:

extensive assistance and support measures for child victims, in particular to prevent that they suffer additional trauma through their involvement in criminal investigations and proceedings;
access to assistance and support as soon as there are reasonable grounds to suspect offence;
special protection for children reporting abuse within the family;
making assistance and support not conditional on cooperation with criminal proceedings;
protection of a victim’s privacy, identity and image.

To prevent crimes, the directive requires that:

all convicted offenders undergo an assessment of the danger they represent and possible risks of repetition of any child sexual offence;
EU countries make available intervention programmes or measures (such as treatment) for convicted offenders and for persons who fear they can offend;
convicted offenders can be prevented from professional activities involving direct and regular contacts with children;
employers for professional and organised voluntary activities involving direct and regular contact with children have the right to request information about convictions and disqualifications and better exchange of criminal records, so that convictions in one country are included in criminal certificates issued in other countries to facilitate background checks;

EU countries ensure the prompt removal of web pages containing or disseminating child pornography in their territory and to work to obtain removal if hosted outside their territory. They may also decide to block access to users in their territory to such web pages with safeguards to prevent abuse;
EU countries carry out prevention activities through education, awareness raising and the training of officials.


In 2016, the European Commission published 2 reports. The first report looked at the directive as a whole, while the second report looked specifically at the measures introduced with regard to websites containing or disseminating child pornography (Article 25).

Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online

In a separate but related development, which is a joint initiative by the EU and the United States, 54 countries from around the world signed up, in 2012, to a Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online. They committed to key policy targets that aim at:

a larger number of rescued victims;
more effective prosecution; and
an overall reduction in the number of child sexual abuse images available online.
The Global Alliance merged with the UK’s WeProtect initiative to form the WeProtect Global Alliance to end child sexual exploitation online, which rallies over 80 governments, 20 global technology companies and 24 leading international and non-governmental organisations to protect children from sexual exploitation online.

It has applied since 17 December 2011 and had to become law in the EU countries by 18 December 2013.


Directive 2011/93/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA (OJ L 335, 17.12.2011, pp. 1-14)

Successive amendments to Directive 2011/93/EU have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council assessing the extent to which the Member States have taken the necessary measures in order to comply with Directive 2011/93/EU of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (COM(2016) 871 final, 16.12.2016)

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council assessing the implementation of the measures referred to in Article 25 of Directive 2011/93/EU of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (COM(2016) 872 final, 16.12.2016)


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