Sexual violence is happening everywhere, regardless of a country’s economic success

'Out of the Shadows Index' measures how 60 countries are addressing sexual abuse and exploitation of children

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Press Release, Economist Intelligence Unit, 22 May 2019 | ‘Out of the Shadows Index’ highlights need for increased government and business response to sexual violence against children. The Economist Intelligence Unit evaluates 60 countries’ policies and practices.

Combatting sexual violence against children sexual requires a stronger and more targeted response from governments and businesses around the world, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Out of the Shadows Index. Developed with support from the World Childhood Foundation and Oak Foundation and with additional support from the Carlson Family Foundation, the Out of the Shadows Index measures how 60 countries at the national level are addressing sexual abuse and exploitation of children. The index, which focuses on policies, practices and standards, reveals that governments, the private sector and civil society are not doing nearly enough to protect children from sexual violence and to achieve Target 16.2 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for ending all forms of violence against children by 2030.

The index covers a comprehensive range of critical issues, including education and awarenessbuilding, reproductive health, gender norms, victim support, law enforcement and child sexual abuse online. Index indicators also focus on the engagement of businesses in the technology and travel/tourism sectors in fighting child sexual abuse and exploitation. The countries in the index cover 85% of the global population under 19 years of age.

“The index, which focuses on policies, practices and standards, reveals that governments, the private sector and civil society are not doing nearly enough to protect children from sexual violence.”

Key findings from the Out of the Shadows study:

  • The top ten countries in the index are among the world’s richest, but only four score as high as 75 (out of 100), revealing substantial gaps in the protective conditions for
    children in even the wealthiest countries. The United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia hold the top three positions in the index. For the 60 countries, the average score is just 50.2. Complete rankings are available online at
  • Many countries have strong legal frameworks for protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation, but most have not implemented policies or created effective institutions. The average score in the “Legal framework” category for all countries is nearly 60, but is just over 40 in the “Domestic commitment and capacity” category.
  • Industry engagement is needed to better protect children, especially against online child sexual abuse, where the expansion of broadband internet has placed more children at risk. Just 15 of the 60 countries have a leading mobile telecoms association that identifies sexual violence against children as a clear priority in its annual report or a code of conduct on its website.
  • Boys are overlooked. Nearly half of the 60 countries do not have legal protections for boys within their child rape laws, while only 19 countries collect prevalence data about sexual abuse of boys.
  • Combatting child sexual abuse and exploitation is becoming a greater priority on the global stage and in many individual countries, and research shows that progress is
    possible even when resources are limited.

Sexual violence against children is a universal threat – no boy or girl is immune. The emotional and health consequences linger, and the socioeconomic impacts can be devastating.

What can countries and companies do? Barriers and pathways to progress in fighting sexual violence against children are discussed in detail in the index report and data model, which are available online at