Japanese Parliament Allows Child Exploitation To Continue

It Is Obvious Some Manga Objectify & Sexualize Very Young Girls. Image Credit: Flickr.
It Is Obvious Some Manga Objectify & Sexualize Very Young Girls. Image Credit: Flickr.

Imagine convenience stores scattered around pretty much every neighborhood corner in a country that sells comic books depicting violent pornographic, often incestuous, cartoons having sex with children. Some even show children being gang-raped. Now imagine a government in 2014 moving not to fully ban this kind of material.

This is precisely what happened in Japan last week when the parliament finally outlawed possession of child porn, but excluded the country’s popular and powerful manga comics, an animation genre with sexually explicit illustrations of children.

Under the new legislation, owning photos or video of children can lead to a year of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. But the law does not apply to child porn depicted in comics, animations or video games.Child rights activists in the country point to Japan’s powerful publishing lobby behind the legal loophole that protects the industry’s nearly $4 billion dollar business.

Let's Stop Protecting Child Porn Under Some Guise of Culture. Image Credit: Flickr.
Let’s Stop Protecting Child Porn Under Some Guise of Culture. Image Credit: Flickr.

“I believed we should go a step further and take a look at manga and animation in which children are sexually abused,” Masatada Tsuchiya, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker said. “Of course freedom of expression is important, and I love manga. But some of the things out there are so depraved they aren’t worth defending.”

This is an extremely troubling development in a country that has long been considered a refuge for pedophiles. Last year, the US State Department released a repot identifying Japan as an “international haven” for the production and trafficking of child pornography.

Not surprisingly, child porn related crime is rising in Japan with police uncovering 1,644 cases in 2013 alone, a ten-fold increase in a decade.

How Can a G7 Country Be Allowed To Get Away With Being a Child Porn Haven? Image Credit: Flickr.
How Can a G7 Country Be Allowed To Get Away With Being a Child Porn Haven? Image Credit: Flickr.

Experts state that child pornography is at ‘epidemic’ levels, spreading with the aid of the Internet, and 80% of child porn transferred over the Internet is coming from Japan. The Virtual Global Taskforce says there is currently an international “explosion” in the number of child porn cases.

As a mother researching how a country, that happens to be the world’s largest consumer and producer of this sickening ‘tradition’, allows the commercial exploitation of children to continue is horrifying to say the least.

But the fact that Japan continues to get away with openly exploiting children at this scale with impunity is even more disturbing. With the new law not applying to the manga genre, this legislation is pretty much meaningless.

Japan's Publishing Lobby Is Said To Be Behind A Complete Manga Ban. Image Credit: Flickr.
Japan’s Publishing Lobby Is Said To Be Behind A Complete Manga Ban. Image Credit: Flickr.

Japan is a major player in the international community, but is the last of the powerful Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries to not universally ban child pornography. It wasn’t even illegal to possess such material until last week. We are talking about a G7 country. How can they have any credibility in the international community, and why do we continue to look away?

More importantly, what does allowing child porn to flourish mean for women’s rights in Japan? According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), female equality in Japan is declining. Between 2012 and 2013, Japan’s ranking fell four places from 101st out of 136 countries to 105th place, the WEF reports.

The World Economic Forum goes on to state that despite the high level of education amongst Japanese women, the country is failing to increase women’s involvement in society.

Let's Put A Final End To What We All Know Is Child Exploitation In Japan. Image Credit: Flickr.
Let’s Put A Final End To What We All Know Is Child Exploitation In Japan. Image Credit: Flickr.

But how can a country even move forward on women’s rights when sexually abusing and objectifying children is a part of a ‘culture’ the government refuses to end? What is the message we are sending to young girls who see national consumption of child exploitation on a daily basis, as ‘entertainment’ marketed for adults? How can a young girl in Japan not grow up to believe they have a duty to be objectified sexually when they manga being consumed all around them?

Ultimately what happens in Japan has implications for women’s rights, and the rights of children around the world. At a time when this kind of criminal material is rising and rampant, especially with the aid of the Internet, we need to do what we can to stop any country in the world from being an open sanctuary for pedophiles.

In 2014, the clear message we need to send Japan is that the rights of children are not up for negotiation. There is no time for excuses, and legal loopholes. Now is the time for Japan to completely ban child porn, not protect it.

Scroll Up