Launched "Journal of Media and Human Rights" - How to protect children in the AI Era


The use of generative AI to create and trade sexually abusive images of children is spreading on Japanese social media. The BBC, a British public broadcaster, reported in June this year.

"Sharing sexually explicit cartoons and drawings of children is not illegal in Japan." the BBC criticizes.

Subsequently, some Japanese news reports also revealed that a large number of sexual images of children, believed to have been created by a generated AI, have been posted on domestic websites.

I have been pointing out the problem of created child sexual images (virtual child pornography) for more than 10 years. It can be said that Japan's continued neglect of countermeasures has led to the current situation.

In the future, it is imperative that we urgently deepen the discussion on how to counter virtual child pornography, including those by AI. Therefore, I have launched a collection of articles, " Journal of Media and Human Rights," as a reference material. The Journal introduces theories and scientific data on virtual child pornography.


 Journal of Media and Human Rights 2023 Vol.1 No.1

-- Table of Contents --


Why Virtual Child Pornography is a Problem

1. "Freedom of Expression" and Virtual Child Pornography

(1) Limits of Freedom of Expression

(2) Reality and scientific data on virtual child pornography

(3) The nature of the problem of virtual child pornography

2 Child Sexual Abuse and the Media

(1) Sexuality of children targeted

(2) Problems of depiction in sexual media

3 Criticisms against Japan from the International Community

 (1) World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

(2) Japanese Virtual Child Pornography Used for Sex Crimes in Other Countries

4 Research Objectives and Methodology

(1) Problem and research objectives

(2) Research questions

(3) Research Methodology

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Japanese Educators Learned How to Teach Sexual Information to Children.


The 1st Sexual Information Literacy Education Festival was held for those who teach sex education to children in Japan.

The event was attended by a diverse range of people from all over Japan, including nursery school personnel involved in comprehensive sexuality education, public health nurses who serve as human rights protection commissioners, midwives engaged in sexuality education activities, and picture book authors who are well-known in the field of sexuality education.

First, Ms. Mayuko Watanabe, president of the Association for Sexual Media Literacy Education, gave an explanation of what sexual information and literacy education is.

Next, midwives and mental health workers certified as instructors by the association gave lectures on sexual information literacy, SNS literacy, media literacy, and gender bias, all of which are necessary in the age of AI.

The following comments were received from the participants:

"Thank you very much for the lecture from four different perspectives. I gained various insights. I realized that in order to protect children, parents, caregivers, teachers, and other adults themselves must acquire a strong sense of sexual information literacy. " (Nursery school staff member)

"I was able to learn information that is changing with the times. It gave me an opportunity to rethink how I feel about my own gender bias. " (Public health nurse)

"The power of the media is great. I look forward to future sexual information literacy education."  (Picture book author)

The "Sexual Information Literacy" education, which involves reading and understanding sexual information in the media, was first proposed in Japan in 2012 by the president Mayuko Watanabe, who is also the godmother of the name of the program.

Subsequently, the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education by UNESCO and other organizations has also emphasized the importance of introducing media literacy into sex education since its revision in 2018.

It was reported that Sweden, a leading country in sex education, will adopt new sex education guidelines in line with the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education in 2022, and will start "sexual information literacy education" to read and understand pornography in sex education at schools.

Japan cannot afford to fall behind because the country is known worldwide as the "Kingdom of Pornography" due to the large volume of adult videos and other materials it disseminates.

Mayuko Watanabe's Official Website


"Only Japan in the G7 (2)" Children's Sexuality and International Human Rights


It was revealed that the number of elementary school students who were victims of crimes such as forced sexual intercourse was 132 in 2022, an increase of nearly 20% from the previous year. For junior high school students, the number was 213, an increase of nearly 40% (National Police Agency, 2023).

Why is it that sexual victimization of children continues to increase? What is behind it?

The G7 Ministerial Meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment was held this month, with Japan serving as the chairing country to discuss gender issues.

In order to use this opportunity to deepen understanding of "children's sexuality and international human rights," I would like to publish an interview I gave to the weekly magazine "AERA.

〈The standards for sexual and violent expression in Japan are unclear. The creators must change to meet "global standards".〉

Q. Regarding Japanese manga and anime, which are often referred to as "Cool Japan," is there a significant difference between what is common knowledge in Japan and what is common knowledge overseas in terms of expression?

A. For example, in the popular Japanese manga "One Piece," blood is erased from scenes of bloodshed in the West, and the heroine's mini-skirt is now knee-length. In "Doraemon," Shizuka wears a bathing suit in the scene where she takes a bath.

Q. Are standards for sexual expression and violence in Japan looser than in other developed countries?

A. Japan's standards are vague. The Broadcasting Act and the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association (JBA) have established standards for broadcasting, but they are not very specific in terms of what is prohibited. For example, one of the standards for sexual expression set by JBA states, "Sexual matters should not cause embarrassment or disgust among viewers," but it is difficult to determine the extent to which sexual expression should not cause embarrassment or disgust.

In Japan, after all, it is a question of how sexual parts of the body are shown. Even if a person makes a somewhat sexual gesture, if the genitals are not emphasized, if the person is clothed to some extent, it may be judged not to be child pornography.

Q. So, what is the major difference between Japan and other countries that have strict media regulations regarding sexual and violent expressions?

A. It is whether they regulate virtual works or not. In the U.K. and France, ownership of virtual works that include sexually abusive or exploitative expressions of children is prohibited, but in Japan, it is acceptable as long as there are no real children in the cartoons or games, etc. Of course, the standards for sexual expression in Japan must be met, though.  In fact, Japan has been repeatedly criticized by the United Nations that sexually explicit images of women and children in anime and games infringe on human rights. But there has been no improvement.


Q. What is the first step in building a society with a high awareness of human rights?

A. I think it is necessary to establish regulations on the expression of human rights violations in the media, but first of all, the creators of the media need to change. They should be sensitive to which expressions may infringe on human rights and be aware that they must not create content that will be violations of human rights.

(AERA, January 18, 2016, Asahi Shimbun Publications/partially modified)


"Only Japan in the G7 (1)" The Country Where Virtual Child Pornography Not Regulated









In an elementary school classroom, a male teacher engages in a series of sexual acts with girls. A boy is being groped and trained by his male tutor. A Girl with a school bag on her back is taken into a car by men and sexually assaulted. ......

We can now see these kinds of representations in manga, anime, video games, and other forms of entertainment. If you open the Internet screen on your smartphone, you may see banner ads for comics that depict children as objects of sexual desire, even if you don't want to look at them. Such works made in Japan have been translated into several languages for foreign audiences and have gained popularity under the name "hentai".

Problematic because they are fictitious

This paper will refer to manga, anime, games, and other forms of depictions of children that do not exist as "virtual child pornography". Some people argue that there is no problem with virtual child pornography because it is a fictional story and does not directly depict sexual acts on real children. However, the fact that the content is fictitious makes it highly problematic.

Fictional stories are basically "anything goes". A real child would experience immeasurable pain if forced to have sex with a young body, but a fictional child would be overcome with pleasure. The message that "it is okay to perform sexual acts on children" is easily spread through legal means.

Can "freedom of expression" really push through?

In Japan, the issue of virtual child pornography has been the subject of much heated debate each time the "The Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Law" was enacted (1999) or the "Tokyo Metropolitan Government Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youth" was revised (2010). The main point of contention was whether or not it violated freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression is, of course, an important right of ours, but there are certain restrictions, and not just any kind of expression is allowed. Can freedom of expression really push aside content that depicts sexual abuse of children as entertainment and tramples on children's sexual dignity, as seen in virtual child pornography?

Virtual Child Pornography and Children's Human Rights

This paper would like to read about the issue of regulation of virtual child pornography with the keyword "human rights". Human rights are "inherent rights that all human beings have based on their human dignity" (Ministry of Justice: Japan). Naturally, children also have human rights.

To affirm the existence of virtual child pornography, even if its contents are fictitious, or rather because they are fictitious, would lead to the violation of children's human rights. This is the issue of this research.

Only Japan in the G7

Looking at the world, international conventions on child pornography regulations have recently tended to include virtual child pornography in their scope of regulation. Even at the country level, legislation to criminalize virtual child pornography is progressing in North America and Europe. Among the seven major countries (G7), Japan is the only country that continues to exclude virtual child pornography from the scope of regulation.

In the midst of this international trend, Japan has been singled out as a "major source of virtual child pornography" by the United Nations and other global conferences, as well as by the foreign media, and is under intense scrutiny.

How should Japan deal with the issue of virtual child pornography and children's human rights? This study will consider the role required of Japan while taking hints from the perspectives of the international society, particularly in Europe and the United States.

The G7 Hiroshima Summit will be held in May 2023, and Japanese manga, anime, and video games are likely to attract worldwide attention as "Cool Japan". This will be an opportune time for Japan to present itself as a country that has acquired a sense of human rights appropriate for the global age. This summit will hopefully contribute to the realization of a truly mature Japanese society where children's sexual dignity is protected.

Mayuko Watanabe (Official Website)


Relationship between "Sexual Expression of Drawings" and "Real-Life Sexual Harm" in the Media (Conference Paper Abstract)

Japan Association of Gender and Law 2013 Annual Symposium Individual Report

Media Researcher and Journalist                                   
Mayuko Watanabe*

Relationship between "Sexual Expression of Drawings" and "Real-Life Sexual Harm" in the Media

-On the Proposed Amendment to the Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Law





In June 2013, it was decided that the proposed amendment to the Act on Punishment of Activities Relating to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Protection of Children (hereinafter referred to as the "Child Prostitution and Child Pornography prohibition Law"), which had been submitted to the ordinary Diet session, would be continued for further deliberation. In addition to introducing a "simple possession prohibition," which would prohibit the possession of child pornography, the amendment calls for the government to conduct research on the relationship between cartoons, animations, computer graphics, etc. and sexual crimes.


With regard to the latter in particular, there is strong opposition from the publishing industry and general users. One point of contention is whether "drawings depicting non-existent people should be subject to regulation," even if they depict sexual abuse, and no unified view has yet been reached.


Does a creative work not cause actual victims? This report focuses on the relationship between "sexual expression in drawings" and "actual sexual victimization," examines several recent cases of sexual crimes and research theories and data on the effects of sexual expression, and discusses the harmful effects of sexual expression in drawings.




Child pornography cases are on the rise, with both the number of cases and the number of people exposed in the first half of 2012 increasing 19.9% and 37.2%, respectively, from the same period last year to 764 cases and 612 people, both record highs. Internet-related cases accounted for 85.7% of child pornography cases. In addition, more than 80% of child pornography of younger children is produced by means of rape or indecent assault. The Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Law was enacted in 1999 and was revised in 2004. However, the current law does not prohibit "simple possession" of child pornography, which is the possession of child pornography simply for personal viewing, and has been criticized by the international community amid the global proliferation of images via the Internet. Therefore, based on the view that regulations should be strengthened, the Liberal Democratic Party, Kōmeitō, and Japan Restoration Party jointly submitted an amendment to the 183rd Diet session in 2013, but it was decided to continue deliberations.


What makes this amendment particularly controversial is the fact that it calls for the government to conduct research on the relationship between "drawn child pornography" such as manga, anime, and computer graphics and sexual crimes. One of the points of debate is whether "drawings depicting non-existent people should be subject to regulation," even if the content depicts sexual abuse.


In the academic literature, there have been several reports on the relationship between sexual crimes and pornography, particularly adult videos (AV), but I am unaware of any studies that focus on drawn pornography. Therefore, this report first examines the relationship between the sexual expression of drawings and actual sexual victimization, based on recent cases of sexual crimes. Then, research theories and data on the influence of sexual expression in drawings will be organized and discussed from a social scientific viewpoint.


As a case study of "infringement of the rights of real children by drawings," it will report a case in which sexual abuse of a real child was the "source of material" for drawn child pornography, which was a comic book. As for cases of "use of drawings in sex crimes," it will introduce cases that occurred in the 2000s, in which supposedly the sexual expressions in drawings was imitated in real sex crimes, or in which the view that real children are sexual objects was planted, or in which a distorted perception of real women in general was formed.


However, it can also be inferred that perpetrators of sex crimes cite media such as videos and comics as the reason for their crimes in order to shift the blame for their crimes to external reasons. It is also generally accepted that it is "some special people" who are affected in this way by the media. In the latter half of the report, it will examine the effects of media representations of sex on viewers from a social scientific perspective.


Various impact studies have shown that exposure to sexually explicit materials increases the tendency to form sexually violent attitudes and decreases the sense of guilt for sexual crimes. In "Limitations of the Effects Research on Sexual Expression," it reports on factors other than pornography that are associated with sexual aggression, as well as preventative factors that are believed to mitigate the effects of these risk factors.


In summary, based on the above reports, this paper will discuss the measures against sexual expression in drawn child pornography in Japan.


▶PDF download


*Mayuko Watanabe Official Website





To be an educator capable of teaching "How to deal with Sexual Information"

 A 29-year-old employee of the Shibuya Ward Office in Tokyo was arrested this month on suspicion of quasi-forcible sexual intercourse. He allegedly forced a woman in her 20s, with whom he was dating, to drink milk tea containing a sleeping pill at his home and sexually assaulted her.
This incident came up as a topic of conversation at "Ginza Mayumedia College" (M College), an adult learning institution of which I am the president.

At M-College, people involved in "children and sexuality education," such as midwives, nurses, school nurses, and other medical professionals, national public officials, university faculty members, and police officers, are studying online from all over Japan. This semester, the "Developping the text of Sexual Information Literacy Education" class has begun. Discussions were held on the actual impact of sexual information disseminated by the media and "sexual consent."

The classic love manual of Japanese media is that "a girl who comes to my house is willing to have sexual intercourse." In other words, the manual instructs that "consent" is considered to have been established at the time she comes to the house. As a pretext for inviting a girl to one's house, the following phrases are recommended: "Let's watch a DVD together," "Let's have a drink together," and so on.

According to reports, the suspect in this case also invited the woman to his home, saying, "Let's watch a movie together. " However, although she came to his home, she did not want to have sexual intercourse. If the suspect had been working based on media's sexual information, he might have been puzzled by the unexpected turn of events.

The suspect then allegedly gave her a cup of milk tea containing a sleeping pill and then proceeded to commit the crime. There is not the slightest hint of an attempt to obtain sexual consent from the other party.

The Japanese media is full of sex-related communication that is out of touch with real people's minds and does not respect the dignity of the other person. It is necessary for adults to teach students at school and at home how to deal with such sex-related information. The Ministry of Education's Courses of Study for junior high and high school students also state that children should be taught how to deal with sexual information.

What is important for children to be able to deal with sexual information appropriately is media literacy, or "sexual information literacy," which is the ability to critically read and understand sexual information in pornography, the Internet, social networking services, and other media without simply reading it.

Since its opening in 2020, M-College has been developing educational materials to cultivate sexual information literacy, the first such initiative in Japan. We are looking forward to seeing what kind of teaching materials will be completed this semester. We hope that by fostering in children the ability to read and understand sexual information, sexual violence, which is suspected to be influenced by misguided sexual information, will be eradicated.

Mayuko Watanabe Official Website


How to handle Sexual depictions in drawn child pornography in which the child victim is "not real"











The problem is the content of the work

An elementary school girl gleefully reaches for the lower half of a male teacher's body.
A graphic incest between a teenage sister and brother.
A young girl is bound naked in chains and subjected to sexual torture.

All of these contents were published in "general-interest" manga magazines not designated for adults. The naked girls on the color pages are very realistic in terms of their pre-secondary sexual characteristics and skin color. They are displayed in bookstores without being covered, and children can easily pick them up.

The proposed amendment to the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths requires that manga and anime depicting rape and other malicious sexual acts against young people be displayed on adult-oriented shelves. The current system for designating unsound books limits the criteria for regulation to "clear depictions of genitalia" and other factors. Thus, cartoons depicting rape, gang rape, or incest of children are practically unregulated as long as the genitals are blurred out. 

Some people argue that there is no need to regulate the depiction of sexual violence in manga, anime, and other virtual child pornography because the victims do not exist. However, the problem is not that simple. Cartoons influence children's sexual awareness and behavior.

According to a survey by the Japanese Association for Sex Education (2005), "comics/magazines" are the second most common source of information on male-female relationships and sexual intercourse for junior high and high school students, after "friends". Since parents and schools do not teach sex properly, comics are valued as "sex textbooks.

Last year, I conducted a survey of male and female university students in Tokyo on the relationship between media and sexual attitudes and behavior. One boy, in his third year of junior high school, asked his girlfriend to have sexual intercourse for the first time. However, she was not interested. In the end, he forced her to have sexual intercourse with him. After that, she left him.

"In the manga I used to read at the time, there were many scenes of girls having sexual intercourse in which they were reluctant to say 'no, stop that,' or 'no, no,' but gradually became pleased. I thought they would at first pretend to be shy," he said.

Manga depictions of sex often include the "rape myth," which drowns out male guilt, by saying that "girls really want to be attacked. It is very possible that children with little life experience will believe these myths.

Furthermore, cartoons and animations that portray rape and incest as if children willingly accept them may make children less resistant to them. If children are made to believe that their youth and sexuality are "valuable commodities," they may be tempted to engage in prostitution and underwear sales. A study by the Asian Women's Fund (1997) found that high school girls who engage in "Enjo-Kousai" (prostitution) are more likely to believe information from the media.

Because drawn works can be "anything goes," certain restrictions are necessary. It is not a question of whether or not the work features real people, but rather what kind of "message" it sends. At the same time, I would like to call for the incorporation of literacy education for children at school and at home to critically read and understand the sexual information from the media. 

(Mainichi Shimbun, "Discussion Points," published June 11, 2010)

Mayuko Watanabe Official Website