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)