Japan Under Pressure to Clamp Down on Child Pornography
Calls for government to ban RapeLay, a computer game where players can earn points for raping schoolgirls Japan has come under renewed pressure to clamp down on its huge market in child pornography following the launch of a campaign to ban a video game in which players earn points by raping schoolgirls and forcing them to have abortions.
Equality Now, a New York-based human rights group, called on Japan’s government to immediately ban RapeLay, a virtual game that can be played on Windows PCs, and to honor its international commitments to end the sexual exploitation of children.
Amazon, the online retailer, removed RapeLay from its UK and US sites earlier this year after it was discussed at a UN conference on the sexual exploitation of children in Rio de Janeiro last November. Amazon Japan recently followed suit, but the game is widely available on other online shopping sites.
Jacqui Hunt, the director of Equality Now’s office in London, said the game was “extremely problematic at many levels”.
“The suggestion that the gamer has transformed the violent crime of rape into an act of sex indicates all too well the danger of objectifying and dehumanizing women and normalizing violence against them,” she said.
Equality Now has urged its 30,000 members to write to the prime minister, Taro Aso, demanding that Japan fulfill its obligations as a signatory to the UN convention against all forms of discrimination against women.
Though Japan is a lucrative market for games depicting sexual violence, RapeLay was spotlighted as a particularly depraved example of the genre.
The games, featuring high-resolution graphics and virtual interaction, are often set in schools or train carriages, with players awarded points for committing acts of sexual violence until the victims start to “enjoy” the experience. The victims are usually dressed in school uniforms, although their age is deliberately kept ambiguous.
The hentai [pervert] theme is common in Japanese comics, animated films and video games, many of which tap into the popular subculture of Lolicon, a Japanese rendering of Lolita complex.
Japanese law bans the production and sale of sexually explicit images of children under 18, but it exempts animated and computer-generated images.
Illusion, the software firm that produces RapeLay, has so far resisted calls to withdraw the game, saying it complies with Japanese child pornography laws. “The game is not intended for sale overseas, so we can’t comment further,” an Illusion spokesman told the Guardian.
But campaigners challenged the firm’s claim that it was targeting only the Japanese market, where such games are considered “acceptable”.
“The age of the internet means it’s impossible to confine anything to a specific market,” said Hiromasa Nakai, a spokesman for Unicef Japan.
“People in Japan have to realize that what might be acceptable in one culture or context might not be acceptable in another. In any case, many Japanese people have no idea what’s on sale on their own doorstep, and RapeLay is only the tip of the iceberg.”
The game is just one of tens of thousands of video games containing explicit sexual content that can be bought online or at stores in Tokyo’s geek district of Akihabara.
Pressure to tighten the law comes amid an alarming increase in demand for child pornography. In 2007, just over 300 children under 18 were identified as victims, according to Japanese police, up more than 20% from 2006 and the highest total since records began in 1999.
While police prosecuted 25 child pornography cases in 1999, the figure had risen to 585 cases by 2006.