On 26 October, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, wrapped up a week-long visit to Japan with a press conference at the Japan National Press Club.

During her hour-long speech, De Boer-Buquicchio implored the Japanese government to tighten its relatively lax restrictions on child pornography in which photographs of sexually dressed children and illustrations of children in sexual contexts are still considered legal.

Many other countries would take “legal child porn” to be a serious gap in their law books and promptly get right to work on tougher child porn restrictions. But online comments in Japan have taken the less popular route and rebutted that “the UN should shut-up and mind its own business.”

■  Kind of illegal but not really

Up until last year it was not illegal in Japan to possess child pornography without intent to sell or distribute, but an amendment to the law which only came into effect in July of this year outlawed possession as well. Since then, however, not much has changed, with books and videos featuring children in provocative outfits and poses still being sold with impunity.

Part of the reason recent legislation failed to have significant impact was that it stopped short of certain grey areas, namely manga and chakuero. Chakuero is an abbreviation for “chakui erochishizumu” (clothing eroticism) which is a type of photography in which models wear extremely revealing clothing such as swimsuit, but without revealing certain parts of the anatomy.

While underage chakuero models managed to slip through the net, it was manga that proved to be the cause célèbre of the issue. At the notion of censorship on the highly popular medium, activists, artists and publishers alike came out in opposition of the laws calling them an affront to freedom of artistic expression.

■  Land of tolerance…

In her speech, De Boer-Buquicchio admits that freedom of expression is something worth protecting, but not at the cost of children’s welfare. She criticized the lawmakers for enacting legislation with too many loopholes to be effective, and accused Japanese society as a whole of tolerating these erotic businesses’ continued operation in the country.

If you’d like, here is her full report. Be warned though it’s about an hour long so get a snack ready.

You can be sure the Abe government will take heed of De Boer-Buquicchio’s words. Failure to comply with UN mandates will result in harsh penalties…such as her asking them again to stop, possibly in a more exasperated tone. It’ll take time though. After all, outlawing child pornography is a tricky, delicate matter—not at all like rewriting the country’s constitution.

■  …Unless you’re a UN Rapporteur

You may find Japan’s online reaction to De Boer-Buquicchio’s words surprising. Opening remarks were short but illustrated emotions on the matter quite well.

“Fuck the UN. Let’s just get out of it.”
“Don’t they have crises like refugees and IS to worry about? Useless, bossy organization.”
“Maybe going after countries that actually traffic children first is a good idea…”

Others expressed their position a little more articulately, albeit still with a fair bit of hostility.

“In manga there is no victim, so what’s the problem? Before worrying about that why not try to stop real child prostitution instead, Special Incompetent Rapporteur.”
“I think it’s okay since the characters in manga don’t resemble real humans anyway.”
“2D provides an outlet that suppresses some from acting out in real life.”

It would seem that the root of support for fictional sexual content dealing with minors is that it works to prevent such crimes from occurring in reality. However, there were a few scattered comments that supported restrictions upheld by other developed countries.

“Isn’t it shameful that we’re considered the ‘pervert nation’ of the world?”

But those few dissenting opinion did not go unchallenged.

“It’s a small price to pay if it reduces actual sex crimes in the country?”
“Is Japan’s sex crime rate really any higher than other G7 countries?”

And it’s on that last question that the argument hinges: What is Japan’s actual rate of sex crimes involving children compared to other countries of its stature? Unfortunately that’s nearly impossibly to accurately measure given the massive number of offenses that go unreported in Japan and other countries worldwide. Without hard data on that matter it really is difficult to say who’s right on the issue.

Honestly, though, it seems that selling child porn for profit, even if it prevents crime is a bad idea, but censorship of any kind is also wrong as it tends to bury problems rather than bring them out into the open for us to deal with. Perhaps one thing we can all agree on is the need to clearly understand why there’s a demand for this type of material to begin with and find out what can be done to stop it from hurting people young and old.

Source: YouTube/jnpc (English), AFP via Otakomu (Japanese)