Archive for the ‘Pornography’ Category

According to a draft Oct. 1 memo obtained by the Star, Ottawa has determined these careers once considered “morally offensive” should be put on the federal government’s Job Bank, which is also available for use by the provinces.

The surprise memo from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has set a few tongues wagging among those wondering how these careers suddenly became respectable, and how Conservatives could allow this to happen.

“This is such a contradiction for the holier than thou family values gang to all of a sudden endorse an escort service as a legitimate occupation for unemployed Canadian women,” NDP MP Pat Martin said.

Terri-Jean Bedford, the dominatrix who went to court and got Canada’s prostitution laws thrown out, said these are legitimate occupations and “it’s high time that people stop being so judgmental about another person’s occupation.”

“There are a lot of unsavory occupations that I would never apply for. Soldier being one of them and politician probably being another,” Bedford said.

The job posting change is at odds with the Conservatives’ outrage over the recent federal court decision stating that Canada’s prostitution violated the Constitution. The government immediately appealed the decision, saying “prostitution is a problem that harms individuals and communities.”

“This is appalling activity by our government because what they are really doing is promoting the subjugation of woman for the most part,” Charles McVety, the president of Canadian Christian College, told the Star.

“It is also hypocritical that this would this would be done under a Conservative government,” he said.

The draft policy, which has yet to be implemented, stated that the following occupations will “be acceptable for posting on Job Bank”:

• Exotic dancer, erotic dancer, nude dancer, striptease dancer and table dancer.

• Escort, chat line agent, phone agent for personal services and telephone agent for personal services.

Many of these occupations in a 2003 memo from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRDC) were described as being “morally offensive by the majority of Canadians.”

It is not the first time that strippers have caused problems for the federal government of the day.

In 2004, the opposition called for then immigration minister Judy Sgro’s resignation over her office’s decision to extend a residence permit to a Romanian stripper, and Ottawa’s controversial program to allow foreign strippers to get special work visas.

“The Conservatives were all over that,” recalled McVety, “that’s why I’m a little incredulous that a Conservative government would do this.”

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/875107–conservatives-say-escorts-good-prostitution-bad

See also:
* Women are being asked to prostitute themselves after applying for vacancies in job centres, the Government has admitted
* Porn TV presenter job advertised in Jobcentre
* Equality impact assessment for accepting and advertising employer vacancies from within the adult entertainment industry by Jobcentre Plus

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The authors of a new book, Half the Sky, say the slavery and abuse of women is the greatest moral outrage of our century

In it, they argue that the world is in the grip of a massive moral outrage no less egregious in scale or in the intensity of despair than the African slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries or the genocides of the 20th. They believe this outrage is a key factor behind many of the most pressing economic and political issues today, from famine in Africa to Islamist terrorism and climate change. Yet they say the phenomenon is largely hidden, invisible to most of us and passing relatively unreported. At worst it is actively tolerated; at best it is ignored.

The fodder of this latterday trade in human suffering is not African people, but women. Which is why they call it “gendercide”. If the supreme moral challenge of the 19th century was slavery, and of the 20th century the fight against totalitarianism, then, they write, “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world”.

The contention is as startling as the idea of a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist buying up prostitutes. I put it to them that, to some people, the claim will seem overblown. After all, you don’t go lightly comparing the plight of women in developing countries today with slavery or, by implication, the Holocaust.

“This idea is a couple of decades in gestation,” Kristof says. “Over those years, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that this really is the greatest moral challenge of this century.”

“When you hear that 60 to 100 million females are missing in the current population, we thought that number compares in the scope and size. And then you compare the slave trade at its peek in the 1780s, when there were 80,000 slaves transported from Africa to the New World, and you see there are now 10 times that amount of women trafficked across international borders, so you start to think you are talking about comparable weight.”

Yet this huge injustice was going on under their noses, largely unreported, dismissed as “women’s issues” by the mainstream media. “We’ve thought a lot about the failure to see this,” says WuDunn. “Partly, it’s because the news is defined by what happens on a particular day, and a lot of the most important things in the world don’t happen on a particular day . . .”

“And it’s partly that our definition of what constitutes news is a legacy of the perspective of middle-aged men,” adds Kristof. “It may well be that one major reason why high-school girls drop out of school around the world is that they have trouble managing menstruation, and probably one reason nobody has cottoned on to this is that people who run aid organisations and write about it have never menstruated.”
At the end of the book, in similar vein, they give a list of action points that readers can take within 10 minutes to make a difference. And they set us a personal challenge: will we join a historical movement to eradicate sex slavery, honour killings and acid attacks, or are we content to remain detached bystanders? It is the 21st-century equivalent of that ultimately probing 20th-century question: “What did you do in the war, Daddy?”

Part of a longer article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/aug/19/women-slavery-half-the-sky

NB Some women’s groups have pointed out the use of photographs by the authors of women who have suffered violence are an unnecessary intrusion

    Pornography had started influencing us long before it came out of the underground and crept into Wall Street boardrooms a couple of decades ago.

    But now, with porn stars bagging the status of ‘crossover artistes’, XXX has seeped into our very sexual identities, convincing obsessive users that the art of lovemaking begins and ends like the way it is shown on screen. Gail Dines, American anti-porn activist and professor of sociology, exchanges notes with Arghya Ganguly about her new book, ‘Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality’ and how the multibillion-dollar industry is shaping people’s lives, sexuality and relationships …

In your book, you say that in American society, porn is probably the most articulate teller of sexual stories for men. In your land of vibrant literature, it’s a bold statement to make…

Yes. It is bold, but it’s a statement I stand by. Boys are not going to great works of literature or art to learn about sex; they are going to porn. They first learn about sex in a culture steeped in porn imagery, so they develop a pornographic way of looking at women’s bodies at a young age. Just watching TV, going to the movies, or playing video games introduces boys to images that reduce women to sex objects. With this pornographic gaze well established by adolescence, boys graduate to actual porn. Most porn on the internet is hardcore, and boys are catapulted into a world of body-punishing sex that is based on the dehumanisation of women. We have no alternative images in the culture that counter this way of looking at women, so this one becomes dominant.

The message porn sends to men is that they are entitled to access women’s bodies. In porn, the man makes hate to the woman, as each sex act is designed to deliver the maximum amount of degradation. Whether it be choking her or brutal intercourse, the goal of porn is to illustrate how much power he has over her. The narrative about women is that they are all whores by nature, ready and willing to do whatever men want. In this world, women are never concerned about pregnancy, STDs, or damage to the body, and are astonishingly indifferent to being called whores. This is an uncomplicated world where women don’t need equal pay, healthcare, retirement plans, or good schools for their children. It is a world filled with one-dimensional women, who are nothing more than a collection of holes.

The story pornography tells about men is much simpler than the one about women, since men in porn are depicted as nothing more than soulless, amoral life-support systems for erect penises who are entitled to use women in any way they want. No matter how uncomfortable or in pain the woman looks, these men are utterly oblivious to her as a person. She is to them just a set of orifices. These stories get delivered to men’s brains via the penis. The younger the boy is when he first views porn – the average age of first viewing is 11 – the more likely these stories are going to form the core of his sexual identity.

You also talk about how women have internalised the men’s gaze and they spend hours in front of the mirror due to it. ‘Porn penises’ have also become the standard against which men judge themselves. Do you suppose it will be a good idea to rehabilitate the youth by showing Renaissance art – for instance, Michelangelo’s ‘David’ – which mostly feature modestly endowed men?

Unfortunately, we live in a world in which culture is commercialised through the mass media, so there is little room for fine art. A better idea would be for men to stop using porn. They do measure themselves against male porn performers, and many feel like sexual losers. Their penises are not as big, nor can they perform the same way as the Viagra-fortified penises in porn. Many feel let down by actual sex, because they get used to masturbating to industrial-strength sex that is supposed to give their partners screaming orgasms. Next to this, real sex looks and feels bland and boring. I don’t think we need to ‘rehabilitate’ men; rather we need to raise their consciousness as to the harm of porn. I believe that the more men learn about the ways in which porn affects their sexual identity, the more they will think before clicking on a porn site. Girls and women have indeed internalised men’s gaze, and they are increasingly turning themselves into objects. This makes absolute sense when you think about the images that they are bombarded with. Flip through the pages of popular women’s magazines and you’ll see slight variations on a theme: a heavily made-up, young, attractive, technologically perfected woman devoid of body hair, cellulite, age lines or physical disabilities. She’s minimally clothed, with a seductive look plastered on her face. Whether it be an almost naked Britney Spears writhing around on stage or a Victoria’s Secret model clad in a plunging bra and thong, women and girls today are overwhelmed by images of themselves as sex objects whose worth is measured only by their ‘hotness.’

Do you agree with the historical argument that if the Great Depression and WW II didn’t occur then Playboy wouldn’t have been able to successfully advertise its anti-woman ideology?

Yes. It was no accident that Playboy became so successful in the 1950s.The obvious question here is how a porn magazine became a best seller in what was one of the most conservative decades of the second half of the twentieth century. To understand this, it is pivotal to map out some of the economic and cultural themes that marked this era. The post-World War II America required a consumer population that would spend money to build the economy. However, the targeted group – the emerging white suburban middle class – was born during a depression and raised during a war, circumstances that lead to frugality. To nurture consumerism, businesses adopted a number of techniques, not the least of which was a massive marketing campaign, to turn frugal people into spenders. The expansion of television helped spread the ideology of consumerism through advertisements and sit-coms, which were often thirty-minute ads for how to furnish a suburban home. However, women were typically targeted by television, so there were few avenues for luring men into buying products they did not need.

Enter Hugh Hefner, a failed cartoonist who – by design or accident – hit on an idea that meshed beautifully with the needs of capitalism. He created a lifestyle magazine for men that placed consumerism at the centre of the new identity of the upwardly mobile male. Playboy spent much of its early years crafting a magazine that taught men what clothes to wear, what furniture to buy for the office, what food to cook, and, most important, how to consume to a level that would attract women, whose goal was to marry out of the working class. Playboy promised men that if they bought the products they would get the real prize: lots of women, just like the ones in the centerfolds. Playboy thus not only commodified sexuality, it also sexualised commodities.

Why has the US government been insouciant with respect to porn? Is it because ‘Pornland’ is a capitalist’s dream?

Porn is indeed a capitalist’s dream, since it is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year machine with ties to other major industries. This is a business with considerable political clout, with the capacity to lobby politicians, engage in expensive legal battles, and use public relations to influence debate. The porn industry sells the idea that women who enter the industry do so because they love sex and enjoy what they are doing. What we don’t hear about are their economic circumstances. Jenna Jameson is a major recruitment tool for the porn industry. She is a walking ad for what a woman can supposedly achieve by doing porn. I don’t think the solution to porn will come through the government. In a capitalist society, the role of the government is to protect the rights of corporations, not the people. If we are going to tackle this problem, it has to be through a mass movement.

Is it fair to conclude that dinners, vanilla sex and post-coital affection are passe due to capitalism and its tag team partner, porn?

I would say what we are witnessing is a move away from relationships toward a hook-up culture where sex, rather than an ongoing relationship, is the expectation. The increasing pornification of our society has been instrumental in shifting heterosexual relationships. Given its lack of commitment and intimate connection, hookup sex is a lot like porn sex, and it is being played out in the real world. If porn and women’s media are to be believed, these women are having as good a time as the men. But research is finding that women do hope for more than just sex from a hook-up – many express a desire for the encounter to evolve into a relationship. Sociologist Kathleen Bogle, for example, found in her study of college-age students that many of the women ‘were interested in turning hook-up partners into boyfriends’, while the men preferred it ‘with no strings attached’.

Do you approve of film schools having porn in their curriculum?

I don’t think educational institutions should support the porn industry in any way. I do, however, believe courses on porn are appropriate for a college classroom as long as they critically explore different ways of thinking about porn, not just ones that celebrate it. Showing movies or stills can be tricky, given the effect it may have on students. In my classes, I show stills, but only after much discussion and the establishment of a clear set of guidelines that allow students to not attend or to leave if they feel uncomfortable or upset. I also worry about students who have a history of abuse, since such images can trigger memories. Given that we live in a porn culture, we should be providing our students with media literacy skills.

Do you reckon that feminists fighting for sexual liberation in the ’60s and ’70s erred somewhere, because all they got is sexuality that has its roots in porn?

Feminism fought for a sexuality based on equality and respect, and what we got was a pornified, plasticised, formulaic sexuality that is an industrial product rather than a reflection of women’s authentic desires. This is not the fault of the feminist movement, but the result of a predatory porn industry that has become the main producer and disseminator of sexual images, ideologies, and messages. I have been doing work in this area for over twenty years, and I never expected porn to get so mainstream or cruel and brutal so quickly. Remember also that the feminism of the ’60s and ’70s was not just about sex, but about radical economic, political, and social change. This feminism understood that without equal access to material resources, women would always be oppressed. Today, feminism talks a lot about sex, but not much about the economic and social conditions of women’s lives.

    The XXX effect

    The global porn industry was estimated to be worth around $96 billion in 2006 with the US market worth around $13 billion. Each year, over 13,000 porn films are released and, despite their modest budgets, pornography revenues rival those of all the major Hollywood studios

    A key factor driving the growth of the porn market has been the development of technologies. There are 420 million internet porn pages, 4.2 million porn web sites and 68 million search engine requests for porn daily. However, officials estimate DVD sales were down by 50 per cent in the last year due to a weak economy, piracy and free or cheap porn on the Internet.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/man-woman/Seeking-porn-pleasure/articleshow/6270499.cms

Italian television could finally be heading in the direction of feminism with the formation of a new anti-sexism watchdog that will crack down on the gratuitous use of young female flesh by state-funded Rai TV.

The new panel will work ‘independently’ for ensuring “the correct representation of people’s dignity, with particular emphasis on the distorted representation of women”.

Approved by ministers, if the panel spots too much flesh or female stereotyping, it will report back to the Rai commission in parliament, which has the power to censure programme-makers.

“Is this the beginning of a revolution? We hope so. With the creation of the panel to monitor the way women are portrayed on state TV we hope to curb the use of women as mere decorative images,” The Independent quoted Giovanna Melandri, the Democratic Party MP and a member of the Rai commission in parliament, as saying.

Silvia Costa, an Italian member of the European Parliament, agreed, “I’m very satisfied that this amendment that has been approved will allow a more realistic representation of women in our country.”

Even Mediaset, owned by the infamous Silvio Berlusconi, allowed a female presenter a stint on its top-rated evening satire show Striscia La Notizia (Hot off the Press), which despite its pretensions of sophistication, still employs dancing girls in hot pants to flesh out the programme.

“Every five years some politician realises that Italian TV is too sexist, and tries to change that. It never worked and I’m not sure it will work this time,” he said.

“It would be like trying to stop us eating pizza: showing sexy girls on TV is so ingrained in our daily life that it can’t be stopped anymore. I really believe that,” said one Mediaset comedy writer who declined to be named. (ANI)

http://sify.com/news/it-s-goodbye-sexism-welcome-feminism-on-italian-tv-news-international-kgfquegjjcf.html

But Prof. Catharine MacKinnon agrees that she has been less successful in fighting pornography.

In at least one area – pornography – Catharine MacKinnon has failed spectacularly. Ever since she began writing about women in the pornography industry and to advocate for them, at the start of the 1980s, nothing in their situation has changed. Her criticism of the damage caused by pornography has achieved nothing.

“On the contrary,” she says. “During the past 20 years the situation has only deteriorated. Today pornography is accessible and available everywhere. It is possible to obtain it with a few keystrokes, it comes in through Internet to every home where there is a computer and the women who work in the industry, in the thousands, are weak and exploited and have no options.”

MacKinnon represented, pro bono, victims of rape in the Serbian-Croatian war. In 2000 she won in the famous Kadic vs. Karadzic case and obtained for the women – victims of the Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic – compensation totaling $745 million. More importantly, she advanced the awareness of rape during wartime as an act whose aim is genocide.

However, MacKinnon’s influence is evident primarily in other areas, which have to do with the mainstream of society. All of the basic terms accepted today in the United States, and also in the cultural and legal system in Israel, regarding sexual harassment in the work place as a prohibited form of discrimination against women, as well as rape and violence within the family, and the criticism of the idea of “consensuality” in rape (the fact that forced sex is considered rape even if the woman who was raped said “yes”), that is, the very fact that women today have the possibility of obtaining legal aid in cases in which they have been injured in a gender-related context – all of these are the fruit of MacKinnon’s theoretical and activist work.

From what she says and from the way she analyzes the power relations between men and women, great pessimism emerges. MacKinnon’s basic idea is that gender – that is, the concepts of “man” and “woman” – is not about difference, but rather about dominance. By virtue of their definition, she argues, the man is dominant and the woman is dominated, subordinated to his needs. And in any case, the male, as Simone de Beauvoir saw before her, is the standard, is “man” – the pattern on which everything is based and from which everything is derived – whereas the woman is the “other,” who is defined relative to him. Just as in anatomy the human body is studied and the model is usually the male body, whereas the female body is shunted into the study of gynecology, as a special case – the same holds true in culture: Woman is not part of the human standard.

MacKinnon stresses: “De Beauvoir showed the problem: that the woman is the `other,’ and the man is the standard. I am showing something else: that the things that have been depicted as a solution to the problem – that is, the feminist struggle for equality, for the equalization of the rights of women to the rights of men – are in fact part of the problem.”

MacKinnon makes it clear that the very fact of wanting to be equal to men perpetuates the assumption that men and masculinity are the model that determines what is worthy and what is desirable. “If we want to achieve equality in such conditions of inequality, our way will become endless,” she comments.

It sometimes seems as though MacKinnon’s radical feminism does not respect women. If a woman is by definition subordinate to a man’s authority, and is defined by him and in relation to him – it is difficult to imagine a totally free and independent woman. This is especially difficult with respect to sex and pornography. MacKinnon assumes that heterosexual sexual relations are defined and shaped by the male point of view. Sex is penetration and subordination, she says, only from the male perspective. She argues that unequal sexual relations – relations of conquest and forced submission – became eroticized in order to perpetuate the inequality between the sexes.

Why have you failed? Why have your proposals for legislation in the area of pornography failed and in all other areas – sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault and so forth – you have succeeded in bringing about real change?

“It’s very simple: Power and money win. There is not a sexual harassment industry. There aren’t people who are making millions out of sexual harassment the way people are making millions from pornography. The moment we succeed in advancing legislation against pornography in one of the states in the United States, or in the world, someone in the international lobby of pimps hears that this is getting under way and they organize and exercise tremendous power to prevent change. They hire huge public relations firms and they invest lots of money and make sure that this does not succeed.

“And not only that. The problem is that the printed and electronic media support pornography, on the mistaken assumption that a prohibition on pornography threatens them and their power. They confuse obscenity laws and the pornography laws that Andrea Dworkin and I have proposed, and they think that they are publishing pornography and their freedom of expression will be limited. But in fact we have made a clear distinction between pornography and all the rest. What there is in advertisements for Hollywood films is not pornography.”

But the non-pornographic eroticism in advertising and mainstream films is also likely to contribute to the demeaning and harming of women. And it is consumed by everyone.

“Ordinary advertisements and films do not lead to violence and rape. Pornography does do this. Studies show this clearly. And pornography is what influences the mainstream, and not the other way around. The struggle has to focus on pornography.”

From a longer article and interview published at http://www.haaretz.com/culture/arts-leisure/man-as-the-standard-woman-as-the-other-1.62353

See also:

The Future of Pornography: Stop Porn Culture! Conference
June 12-13, 2010 – Wheelock College, Boston MA

In March 2007, over 500 people gathered at a conference in Boston to help re-ignite a progressive and feminist movement against pornography. Our second national conference will once again bring together activists, researchers, survivors, parents, and other concerned community members to continue developing our anti-pornography analysis and building our resistance movement. Come and join us for two days of keynotes, workshops, and discussion.

An increasingly sexualized consumer society and inadequate funding for social services are major reasons why more young girls are being pressed into sexual slavery, a human-trafficking expert told a Fort Worth audience last week.

Fishnet-clad dolls, “porn star” T-shirts, Juicy brand jeans and the mainstreaming of the word “pimp” all are signs of “demonic forces” at work in American culture, said Alesia Adams, the Salvation Army’s Atlanta-based human trafficking coordinator. Adams spoke at a forum on the subject at the Salvation Army’s Fort Worth offices.

“I don’t want my granddaughter playing with a doll with hooker heels,” she said.

Adams also criticized what she called a shortage of social services to help desperate young people who might be lured into a life of sex.

“There are more services for animals than for child victims of abuse,” she said.

Texas is a hub for human sex trafficking, said Kathleen Murray, the Fort Worth Police Department’s trafficking coordinator. She estimated that 20 percent of all human trafficking in the United States comes through Texas at some point.

“These cases are within our reach,” she said. “That’s a huge responsibility for Texas.”

The State Department estimates that 300,000 children, mostly runaways, are exploited in the United States each year, Murray said.

Experts at the forum said that no reliable estimates for the amount of local sex trafficking exist.

But they said that The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than from any other state, and 15 percent of those are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

FBI Special Agent Don Freese said forced labor trafficking is harder to detect because it typically involves immigrants bringing in others from their home country to work in private homes.

“Sex trafficking is easier to find,” he said, because it requires interaction with customers, which can open the door for detection by law enforcement.

Deena Graves, executive director of Traffic911, a local nonprofit group that rescues child slavery victims, said human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, second only to drugs in global crime exploits.

Sex trafficking may eventually eclipse drugs, she said.

“You can sell a drug only one time,” she said. “You can sell a person over and over and over. Demand drives the machine.”

A child is sold in the world every two minutes, Graves said, and a third of children who run away from home are forced into prostitution within 48 hours.

“These perpetrators know how to spot a distressed child at malls, bus stations,” she said. “Once they are forced into it, their average life expectancy is seven years” because of disease and violence.

Pornography is the No. 1 driver of child sex exploitation, she said. Often, children are forced to act out scenes in hard-core movies for paying customers, Graves said.

She agreed with Adams that pop culture desensitizes kids and adults to exploitation. She highlighted the song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” which won the best original song Oscar from the movie Hustle & Flow and the online game PimpWar.com as examples of glamorizing prostitution and sex slavery.

“You will become a master at the art of pimping your hoes, commanding your thugs and battling your enemies to protect what you have and to help your empire grow,” PimpWar’s online intro boasts.

Graves showed the audience a cropped image of the face of young girl from a pornographic movie.

“This could be your daughter,” she said.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/fortworth/stories/052010dnmetsexslaves.210da8b2.html

Iceland is fast becoming a world-leader in feminism. A country with a tiny population of 320,000, it is on the brink of achieving what many considered to be impossible: closing down its sex industry.

While activists in Britain battle on in an attempt to regulate lapdance clubs – the number of which has been growing at an alarming rate during the last decade – Iceland has passed a law that will result in every strip club in the country being shut down. And forget hiring a topless waitress in an attempt to get around the bar: the law, which was passed with no votes against and only two abstentions, will make it illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees.

Even more impressive: the Nordic state is the first country in the world to ban stripping and lapdancing for feminist, rather than religious, reasons. Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir, the politician who first proposed the ban, firmly told the national press on Wednesday: “It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold. The law is a result of the feminist groups putting pressure on parliamentarians. These women work 24 hours a day, seven days a week with their campaigns and it eventually filters down to all of society.”

The news is a real boost to feminists around the world, showing us that when an entire country unites behind an idea anything can happen.

According to Icelandic police, 100 foreign women travel to the country annually to work in strip clubs. It is unclear whether the women are trafficked, but feminists say it is telling that as the stripping industry has grown, the number of Icelandic women wishing to work in it has not. Supporters of the bill say that some of the clubs are a front for prostitution – and that many of the women work there because of drug abuse and poverty rather than free choice.

So how has Iceland managed it? To start with, it has a strong women’s movement and a high number of female politicans. Almost half the parliamentarians are female and it was ranked fourth out of 130 countries on the international gender gap index (behind Norway, Finland and Sweden). All four of these Scandinavian countries have, to some degree, criminalised the purchase of sex (legislation that the UK will adopt on 1 April).

Johanna Sigurðardottir is Iceland’s first female and the world’s first openly lesbian head of state. Guðrún Jónsdóttir of Stígamót, an organisation based in Reykjavik that campaigns against sexual violence, says she has enjoyed the support of Sigurðardottir for their campaigns against rape and domestic violence: “Johanna is a great feminist in that she challenges the men in her party and refuses to let them oppress her.”

Then there is the fact that feminists in Iceland appear to be entirely united in opposition to prostitution. There is also public support: the ban on commercial sexual activity is not only supported by feminists but also much of the population. A 2007 poll found that 82% of women and 57% of men support the criminalisation of paying for sex – either in brothels or lapdance clubs – and fewer than 10% of Icelanders were opposed.

Jónsdóttir says the ban could mean the death of the sex industry. “Last year we passed a law against the purchase of sex, recently introduced an action plan on trafficking of women, and now we have shut down the strip clubs. The Nordic countries are leading the way on women’s equality, recognising women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale.”

Janice Raymond, a director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, believes the new law will pave the way for governments in other countries to follow suit. “What a victory, not only for the Icelanders but for everyone worldwide who repudiates the sexual exploitation of women,” she says.

Jónsdóttir is confident that the law will create a change in attitudes towards women. “I guess the men of Iceland will just have to get used to the idea that women are not for sale.”

Part of a longer comment piece at http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/25/iceland-most-feminist-country

When Milanese businesswomen Lorella Zanardo decided to make a short documentary critiquing the sexist and humiliating depictions of women on Italian television, her expectations were modest.

“I thought that we’d make this video, put it on DVD and take it around to high schools to get kids thinking about the issue,” says Zanardo. “The last thing I expected was this reaction.”

Zanardo is referring to the national word-of-mouth sensation that Il Corpo delle donne (Women’s Bodies) has become in Italy. The half-hour documentary is a provocative montage of images of the semi-naked, surgically altered women who regularly parade across primetime Italian television. Since Women’s Bodies hit the web this summer, it has had almost a million views — a remarkable number in a country with relatively low internet usage.

Zanardo has been flooded with invitations to present her documentary – not only from high schools, but also from university, political and women’s groups, as well as mainstream political talk shows.

“It clearly came at the right time,” says Zanardo. As someone who never participated in feminist activities in the past, she says she felt an obligation to younger women to speak out against the distorted reflection of women’s bodies and lives on Italian TV.

Indeed, what’s most surprising about the reaction to Women’s Bodies, isn’t the indignation it has triggered, but the fact that an outcry hasn’t come sooner. Italy has long been renowned for taking disturbing depictions of women to bizarre extremes on TV. Game and talk shows regularly feature fully clothed male hosts, politicians or journalists surrounded by so-called veline – prancing showgirls with oversized breasts and lips who, at best, are silent and, at worst, are prodded by the male hosts to play the role of ditzy ingénue, and then teased and derided for their apparent stupidity.

Zanardo’s documentary edits together examples from a range of shows. One recent popular evening quiz show has a young, scantily dressed woman climb into a plexi-glass cage each episode, where she remains throughout, responding to the jokey put-downs from the host with obsequious smiles. (When some viewers complained, producers replied that there were holes in the plexi-glass so the woman could breathe.) Another show features a woman hanging on a hook while a man stamps her bottom as if she were a prosciutto ham. Even the popular, long-running investigative news program Striscia la notizia features two showgirls shaking their buttocks and breasts at the start and end of each episode.

Critics point out that although Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a media mogul, did not invent television shows with women as titillating decoration, these kinds of depictions have become more pervasive since he consolidated his control of Italian television, as owner of most private channels and head of state TV. In the past year alone, the leader has faced accusations of “cavorting with minors,” sleeping with prostitutes and appointing the young showgirls to political positions for which they have few qualifications. Critics say Berlusconi’s politics and personal life reflect his soft-porn version of reality that his channels promote.

“The cultural model Italy has at the moment is one of the sultan, the harem,” says Concita de Gregorio, editor of the left-wing L’Unità daily newspaper. There was an incident on national television when Mr. Berlusconi phoned into a talk show to tell opposition parliamentarian Rosy Bindi that she was ‘smarter than she was beautiful.’

“It’s a terrible insult, yes,” de Gregorio says, “but it’s also locker-room humour that conveys the message that only pretty women have the right to speak and that if you’re not pretty, you’re worth nothing.”

It’s an observation particularly germane to older women on television, and the pressure placed upon them to retain a youthful sexual appeal. Il corpo delle donne presents a stream of puffy, mask-like faces of post-40 women who have undergone various forms of plastic surgery to remain “presentable” to a TV public.

Reflecting the meaning of this, Zanardo poses a series of questions: “All of our 45 face muscles, excluding those needed to eat, breath and smell, are used to express emotion. The more complex your character, the more individual your face will be. So what are these faces hiding? Why can’t adult women appear with their real faces on television anymore? Why this humiliation? Why must we be ashamed of showing our real faces? What are we afraid of?”

The answer to the final question, says Zanardo, has become clearer to her in recent months.

“I think what we’re afraid of is that men won’t like and accept us anymore,” she says. “The acceptance of men is very important to women [in Italy]. The fact that one woman can take her own life in her hands and say I don’t want to follow this model anymore, makes her feel very alone. This is a terrible fear.” Change, she says, means Italian women have to start taking risks again – something they haven’t done in significant numbers since the feminist movement of the ’70s died out.

“What I am proposing is that women accept for a period of time not to be loved by society, because the path to real independence passes also through non-acceptance.”

Ironically, one of the most powerful images in Il corpo delle donne comes from a pre-feminist past: a clip of post-war Italian actress Anna Magnani. As we look at a middle-aged Magnani gazing into the camera – looking tired, defiant and magnificent – Zanardo’s voice recounts what she used to tell her makeup artist when he tried to cover her wrinkles with makeup. “Leave them alone. Don’t cover even one. It’s taken me a lifetime to get them.”

http://www.cbc.ca/arts/tv/story/2009/12/11/f-womens-bodies-italian-television.html

Click here to see the full version of Il Corpo delle donne (Women’s Bodies) http://www.ilcorpodelledonne.net/?page_id=91

This is the first major step forward in protecting children from being sexually exploited through the making and distribution of images of them being sexually abused. The law is hard hitting and among other things prohibits the possession, making, distribution, display, and the attempt to access or transmit on the internet or by cell phone any illegal images depicting sexual activity with or of children or their private parts.

This is one of the few pieces of anti-child pornography legislation in the world that requires by law Internet Server Providers (ISPs) to install filtering software that will block access to web sites though the internet that contains illegal images of children as defined under the act. The law is known as the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, Republic Act 9775. Mall operators and business establishments have to know and report to the police within 7 days any violation of the act in their premises.

The law strictly outlaws any attempt to knowingly access with reasonable knowledge any child pornography with or without the intent to publish, sell, distribute or broadcast the images. Hundreds of thousands of people daily are accessing, sharing, viewing and downloading images of children being sexually abused. It is a 3 billion dollar business and every image is evidence of a crime against the child. Experts say that such images do entice, induce and encourage offenders to seek out victims and abuse them. Under this legislation the internet server providers must give to the police when asked the identities of the offenders trying to access child pornography over the internet through their servers.

The mandated installation of filtering software by law is rejected by many in the industry. They say it is a first step to government surveillance of internet traffic is an invasion of privacy and a form of censoring; all these are anathema to internet server providers and many users. In the UK they have voluntarily installed filtering software.

There is no total and absolute right over anything or anybody in the world. If the freedom of action of some is harming and allowing the abuse of others, especially children, then action must be taken to protect the vulnerable and the victimized. One right must not be used to violate another right. Besides we all have a moral responsibility to protect children and bring violators to justice. Industry has a social responsibility to make their services child safe just like any other product. They must put children before profits.

Bayantel, a Philippine ISP owned by the Lopez Family is the only ISP already using the very easy to install filtering system known in the industry as NetClean a clever and effective invention from Sweden. PLDT, Sun-Digitel, Globe, Smart and Eastern do not have it. They must act soon. The Preda Foundation (www.preda.org) is mounting a campaign to encourage them to protect children and do it now and install NetClean white box technology. They are a responsible corporation and work closely with Teliasonera. Both companies are committed to helping the victims of child exploitation.

The New Zealand government is using NetClean technology successfully throughout the whole country. The ISPs have no reason to wait the 90 days for the National Telecommunications Commission to order them to do it.

Senator Jamby Madrigal gets the credit and thanks of the nation for sponsoring, drafting and tirelessly advancing the law which passed the senate in record time. I was privileged to be invited to share ideas and suggestions with her legal committee in drafting the legislation. Unicef Philippines also contributed greatly by engaging a Canadian legal expert and brought her in from Hong Kong to help draft key sections. Together with the senator Madrigal’s highly intelligent drafting team led by Attorney Nino Aquino we had a productive brainstorming that helped make this landmark legislation to protect children. (preda@info.com.ph)

Lower House representatives Darlene Antonio-Custodio Ist., Nikk Prieto-Teodoro and Matias Defensor all deserve praise for their efforts to get this important legislation sponsored, passed and signed.

http://www.mindanaoexaminer.com/news.php?news_id=20091120061145

Something is stirring in the home of western European chauvinism. Italian womanhood is rising up. An online petition decrying the way female politicians are treated by Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister and billionaire businessman, has gathered 100,000 signatures.

A slogan – “I am not a woman at your disposal” – is catching on. It is aimed at the famously flirtatious 73-year-old after months of revelations about his dalliances with prostitutes and models procured for parties. It draws attention to his attempts to put forward women better known as showgirls as his party’s MEPs in Brussels and for cabinet posts. In some cases, their scant qualifications have been matched only by their record of scant outfits.

The petition was started by two academics and a writer, all women, and hosted on La Repubblica, one of Italy’s leading newspapers and a frequent foe of Mr Berlusconi. It says: “Qualities considered useful in advertising are now considered essential political qualities… obedience and attractiveness are now indispensable elements of the education needed to serve in positions of the upmost responsibility.”

Unusually for the supremely confident Mr Berlusconi, he has been forced into a half-hearted apology to Rosy Bindi, a well-known Left-leaning politician in her late 50s, after he told her on TV this week that she was more pretty than intelligent – a slur intended to mean that she was neither. The prime minister said his “joke” had been made in a “moment of disappointment”, a rare concession considering he usually lashes out at those offended by his frequent boorish remarks.

Mr Berlusconi is also under fire at home. He is not accused of criminal wrongdoing in the claims that associates hired women to come to gatherings he was hosting. But Veronica Lario, his wife of almost 20 years, has said she will seek a divorce and his lawyers have, embarrassingly, had to clarify who it is that breaks the law when a man has sex with a woman who has been hired for the occasion.

Meanwhile, something more fundamental in Italian society is being questioned. High-profile television programmes – not on the channels controlled by Mr Berlusconi – have attacked the incessant portrayal of women on Italian TV and in advertising. There is so much eroticism on display in Italy that, usually, this is spotted only by foreigners amazed at the perpetual use of female flesh to sell products. In other countries such crude marketing has been rare for 30 years.

“Why do we put up with this continual humiliation?” asks a female voice-over added to a clip of a relatively recent prime-time show. A smiling and uncomfortable woman is standing on a rocking surfboard, elevated above a table of men, trying to keep her balance and therefore doubled over so that her very short cocktail dress rides up ever higher. Another clip shows a woman with her breasts thrust upward by her clothing, walking into a transparent shower cubicle in the middle of a stage and then being soaked. This is not on a pornography channel. “What,” asks the voice, “are we afraid of?”

What indeed? For it is not the ubiquity of naked women, nor the chauvinism of men such as Mr Berlusconi that are so remarkable – though they are pretty extraordinary. The most striking question is why Italians, particularly women – emancipated, Western, affluent and educated – put up with it. The new spasm of feminism is a very rare outpouring in a country where gains were made by women in the 1960s and 1970s but whose voices inexplicably fell silent while Mr Berlusconi built his media empire on a cocktail of flesh and glitz in the 1980s.

Italian society has also been behind in making the changes that, in other countries, have increased the participation of women in the workforce. Italy ranks low on part-time work, and parents are critical of the lack of nursery places or the restrictive opening times of businesses such as banks and shops. Italy is ranked 67th in the world for gender equality according to the World Economic Forum in 2007, a ranking based on the percentage of women among legislators, ministerial positions, senior officials and managers.

Article continues at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/6417105/Italian-women-say-ciao-to-the-showgirl-image.html

After a summer of sleaze in which Berlusconi has been variously accused of “frequenting minors”, sleeping with an escort girl and holding debauched parties at his Sardinian villa, a feminist backlash is gaining momentum. The target is not only Berlusconi but the wider culture of a country in which a prime minister could survive such allegations.

According to Chiara Volpato, an academic at Milan’s Bicocca University, matters hit rock bottom when Berlusconi’s lawyer said his client would never pay for sex with an escort because the prime minister is merely an “end user” of women: “The choice of language really summed up how far we have sunk.”

This summer a group of academics, including Volpato, persuaded 15,000 people to sign a petition asking the wives of world leaders to boycott the G8 conference in Italy in protest at the plight of women in Berlusconi’s Italy.

Female judges, senators, nuns, historians and businesswomen circulated two more petitions calling for an end to sexism on television, while the European court of human rights will decide if Berlusconi can be sanctioned for sexism after two politicians, Donata Gottardi and Anna Paola Concia, complained to the court about his “continuous and repeated disrespectful statements about the lives and the dignity of women”.

Last week, when journalist Maria Laura Rodotà published an open letter to Italian women in Corriere della Sera calling for a “New Feminism”, she was overwhelmed with responses. “It was like uncorking a bottle,” she said. Protest is also emerging on the right. An article damning Berlusconi for promoting beautiful young women to political positions has been written by academic Sofia Ventura and published by a think-tank run by Berlusconi’s ally Gianfranco Fini.

Times were not always so bad. Italian women can draw inspiration from a proud record of winning rights in the 1970s, when 20,000 feminists would fill Rome’s streets on protest marches. Despite fierce resistance from the Vatican, divorce was legalised in 1974 after a referendum, and parliament legalised abortion in 1978.

“In an Italy with no divorce, secret abortions and huge inequality in the home, feminism achieved nothing short of an earthquake,” said Miriam Mafai, a former parliamentarian and veteran journalist who helped to launch the Italian daily La Repubblica in 1976.

But in recent years the Vatican has been making up lost ground. Abortion may be legal, but women have reported Catholic doctors refusing to supply even morning-after pills. And in the prime minister the unreconstructed Italian male has found a 21st-century hero.

Zanardo said that television was playing a crucial role in demeaning women and damaging their self-esteem: “Eighty per cent of Italians who watch TV use it as their sole source of information and 80% of the women featured on TV are either sex objects or mere decoration.” As young girls bred on Italian TV increasingly dream of life as a velina, or showgirl, their mothers are often too tired to protest, she added. “Between jobs and housework, Italian women now work two hours a day longer than the European average.”

For now, the modern feminist revolt remains largely confined to universities and national newspapers. Despite the flurry of activity, Ventura said she was pessimistic about rank-and-file women joining the petition-signing intellectuals who are mobilising: “The alarm is sounding in universities but not elsewhere, this is not yet a political problem. Feminism achieved a lot first time round, but evidently it did not reach deep enough.”

Zanardo disagrees, claiming protest is growing outside university corridors, but people do not know where to look. “It’s happening on the internet. The proof was when the University of Bologna withdrew erotic images it used in advertising after a huge online protest.”

There are other signs. A risqué TV comedy show on a Berlusconi channel was moved to a later time slot after protests from a parents’ group. And when a blonde model on Berlusconi’s flagship football programme exposed a breast during a dance routine she was promptly sacked. “I don’t think that would have happened in the past,” said Zanardo.

Zanardo’s website is registering complaints about lewd images on TV and is planning courses in schools “to help children defend themselves from this television”. The response to Il Corpo delle Donne, she says, has been overwhelming: “People who watch Italian TV all the time have told me ‘Thanks, it’s the first time I really see what is going on’.”

Edited version of longer article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/20/berlusconi-italian-women-backlash

See also:
* Women Are Not Wallpaper http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48442
* Videocracy http://www.atmo.se/film-and-tv/videocracy/
and earlier postings:
* The Body Of Women: Female Image In Italian Television https://womensphere.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/the-body-of-women-female-image-in-italian-television/
* In Italy, Feminism Out, Women As Sex Symbols In https://womensphere.wordpress.com/2008/12/14/in-italy-feminism-out-women-as-sex-symbols-in/

The number of Web sites containing child pornography is increasing and more images show serious abuses, a U.N. expert said last week.

More than 4 million Web sites worldwide show images of children being sexually exploited, said the U.N. investigator on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat M’jid Maalla.

“There is an increase in the number of sites recorded,” she told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, citing research by the UK-industry group Internet Watch Foundation.

“The number of images showing serious exploitation quadrupled between 2003 and 2007, showing abject images of brutal rape, bondage, oral sex and other forms of debasement,” Maalla said. She did not give precise figures.

Over 750,000 people are using child porn sites at any time, said Maalla, a Moroccan medical doctor who was appointed to the unpaid U.N. post last year.

Internet chat rooms have become the main method for child abusers to recruit children, she told the 47-nation council.

A study by the U.S. National Center on Missing and Exploited Children found 83 percent of people who had child pornography possessed images of children aged 6 to 12 years old, 39 percent had images of children between the ages of 3 and 5, and 19 percent had images of children younger than 3 years old, she said.

Maalla urged international cooperation to stop the child pornography industry, which she estimated to be worth between $3 billion and $20 billion. She recommended countries share information on sites containing child pornography in order to block them faster.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iWTXwk3XemmFWkH889fWh4NJulpgD9AOHP580

The complexities surrounding domestic violence are being complicated by a new factor: The prevalence and easy access to pornography.

More women requesting help are reporting that their abuser views pornography, according to officials who work with abused women.

“Five years ago pornography wasn’t something we talked about,” said Kay Card, director of Safe Harbor, a women’s shelter in Davis County. The pornography is a “cancer,” she said.

“Women can’t compete with the Internet,” Card said.

They report their abuse starts with put-downs, progresses to physical abuse, sexual insults, sexual abuse and rape.

“They appear to be living normal lives, but you don’t know what people are doing on the Internet in the middle of the night,” Card said.

Utah’s Domestic Violence Coalition wants to get the message out, that it is not OK to physically, psychologically, emotionally or financially abuse another person, whether it is wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend or a child.

Judy Kasten-Bell, executive director of the Domestic Violence Coalition council, said, since there have been 11 deaths in Utah so far this year related to domestic violence.

The first this year was the murder of Brittany Nichols, 23, in North Ogden on Jan. 4. Her killer, Johnny Maurice Bell, was sentenced recently to 16 years to life in the Utah State Prison.

“There is no room in our community for domestic violence,” Kasten-Bell said.

The struggling economy is also complicating efforts to help abuse victims. Jobs are the key to helping women get away from their abuser and back on their feet.

Top of Utah women escaping domestic violence are spending more time in shelters than a year ago due to the poor economy.

When the economy plummets, abuse cases of all types, tend to increase, said Jason Wild, interim director for the Family Connection Center in Layton.

But women are more reluctant to report abuse because they are financially dependent on their partner and are afraid they will not be able to make it on their own, he said.

“We’re not seeing a massive increase in numbers (of women reporting abuse),” said Raquel Lee, assistant director of Your Community Connection in Ogden.

“What is happening, it is taking longer to get on their feet,” Lee said about the women who do leave a violent relationship.

Many of the women who come to the shelters for help are unemployed, which makes it almost impossible for them to find a place to live, said Card.

Annette MacFarlane, director of Your Community in Unity, in Brigham City, agrees.

“The reason many women go back to their abuser is because they do not have a job or a place to live,” said MacFarlane.

One in four women have experienced or are in a violent domestic relationship, she said.

From July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, her agency took 3,845 phone calls from victims, as well as friends and family members seeking help on behalf of another.

So a recent $250,733 award from the Department of Justice was welcome news, MacFarlane said. The funds will be used for several programs, including transitional housing and to help women who are getting out of abusive relationships.

Currently, the agency provides funding for one year of rent, but with the added funds, the agency will be able to provide rent assistance for 18 months.

Card said her agency is feeling the economic pinch in another way: For the first time there is a drop in private donations, which are used to help pay for (doctor) co-pays, bus fares, dental work for children, and prescriptions.

In addition, Card’s shelter is seeing a decrease in donations of items like paper towels, toilet paper and reams of copy paper.

Women seeking help do not fit society’s stereotypes, MacFarlane said.

“She doesn’t live in a trailer court with a husband wearing a ‘wife beater’ undershirt,” MacFarlane said. “The reality is they represent the demographics of our community.”

http://www.standard.net/topics/news/2009/09/19/pornography-root-more-and-more-domestic-violence-incidents

Ukraine has officially made it illegal to publish or hold any pornographic content within the confines of Ukraine. Many groups are asking the President to veto the law that would fine and or imprison you.

In legislation signed last week by Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko, pornography, unless used for medicinal purposes, is officially illegal in Ukraine. Censorship can be anywhere from publishing porn to possessing it.

Any holding of pornography will be a punishable fine of either 850 Hryvnia ($111 USD) or up to three years in prison. Human rights activists and members of the Ukrainian artistic community have asked Pres. Yushchenko to veto the law.

The draft of this new legislation was prepared directly by the Ukrainian government and passed by the Ukrainian Parliament on June 11th, 2009.

Ukraine is not the first nation to ban porn. Many countries are banning it, trying to ban it or have banned it in the past but did not work. Currently, Indonesia has made pornography illegal however, many pornography websites are from Indonesia. Singapore has blocked access to pornographic websites. Hamas authorities of the Gaza Strip have began blocking internet pornography. Australia highly regulates pornographic content in all media formats.

Possession of pornography is now a criminal offense in Ukraine, Lenta.ru reports, after Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko signed a law to that effect today. Human rights activists and members of the Ukrainian artistic community had asked the president to veto the law.

The draft of the law was prepared by the Ukrainian government. It was passed by the Ukrainian parliament, the Supreme Rada, on June 11.

Now pornography can be kept only “for medical purposes,” according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice. The ministry also warns that possession of a large number of identical images will be considered evidence of trading in pornography, which is also criminalized.

Punishment for possession of pornography will include fines and imprisonment for up to three years.

http://mosnews.com/society/2009/06/30/ukrporno/

Debate over this has heated up in Japan, after dozens of British lawmakers in February called on their government to halt sales of video games involving sexual violence, targeting by name the Japanese computer game “Rapelay.”

The software lets players try to rape and impregnate a virtual woman and her two daughters, who arguably look like schoolgirls.

The debate here has been roiled further with Diet members proposing legislation that would ban possession of certain kinds of child pornography. The bills, as they now stand, would only regulate pornographic content with photographic images of real humans, but some lawmakers argue that “manga,” “anime” and video games should be included.

Japan currently has no regulations on pornographic material if it is in the form of illustrations, anime or video game graphics — even if it depicts sexual abuse of children.

Elsewhere, according to the Foreign Ministry’s Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, non photographic images can be considered illegal in the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Germany if they include depictions of excessive sexual abuse.

“The concept of laws preventing child porn varies between countries,” division spokeswoman Yuki Okada said. “For example, France and Canada have the most strict laws and they regulate anime, manga and computer graphics almost in the same way as photographs and videotapes.”

One of the problems the British Parliament had with “Rapelay” was that it was being sold on Amazon.co.uk without having been screened by the British Board of Film Classification.

To ward off similar criticism, the Ethics Organization of Computer Software, a Japanese industry group that screens software before going on sale, announced this month it is prohibiting group members from producing “sexually abusive” software.

Group spokesman Koichi Ashida declined to reveal its definition of “sexually abusive,” saying it is an internal regulation for group members only.

About 90 percent of Japan’s adult game makers belong to the organization, which has 233 member companies, according to Ashida.

Toru Okumura, a lawyer familiar with pornography cases, said the situation will not change fundamentally unless laws are introduced.

“Even if the group approves software that may be considered too vulgar by ordinary people’s standards, the software will not be illegal,” he said.

Okumura asserted that the group would probably approve, for example, a game with a fully clothed young female character being raped.

He pointed out that the Nihon Ethics of Video Association, a counterpart group for producers of live-action videos and DVDs, has a similar self-imposed restriction. The bottom line, however, is that anything is allowed unless the authorities consider it “indecent,” and live-action DVDs depicting rape line rental video store shelves.

“The only clear-cut line between decent and indecent in reality is the mosaic that blurs genitals,” he said.

Okumura’s concern is shared by Equality Now, an international female rights group. “Although we are glad that the EOCS has taken this step, they are still a voluntary body and we continue to encourage the Japanese government to take legal measures,” member Anber Raz said in an e-mail.

Japan is often criticized for being too lenient on pornography, and rights groups are frustrated with Japanese politicians for their inaction.

“Politicians listen to some Japanese who think anime does not victimize anybody because no one is videotaped or photographed in it. But those people overlook the right of children who are forced to see what they do not want to see or the right of parents who want to prevent their children from seeing such material on the Internet,” said UNICEF Japan official Hiromasa Nakai.

Currently in Japan, the child pornography law and Article 175 of the Criminal Code regulate pornography.

However, Justice Ministry officials say anime, manga and video games are not covered by the laws because they have no photographic or live-action video content.

The Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan submitted separate bills this Diet session that would make possession of child pornographic products a punishable crime. The current law states that possession of such material is a crime only if it is held with the intention of selling or giving it to others.

The LDP’s bill would oblige the government to conduct research on possible causal links between infringement of children’s rights and manga, animation and computer graphics. The intention would be that such links would lead to regulation of those products.

Eriko Yamatani of the LDP is among lawmakers trying to place regulations now on child pornography in anime, manga and video game products.

“The (LDP) bill is not strong enough. We must take more concrete measures quickly,” said Yamatani, who wants to change the bill so anime porn is treated the same as live-action porn. “I want parents and the media to raise their voices more to prompt more politicians to take action.”

The DPJ’s bill targets only products depicting live action.

An official at the DPJ policy research council said the purpose of the child pornography law is to protect children from sexual abuse, and thus it should not regulate manga, anime or video games. However, the DPJ has deep concerns about sexual violence in those products and is weighing how to regulate it, he added.

Okumura pointed out that even under current regulations, police can crack down on anime and manga porn if they ever change their view of what constitutes “indecency.” The Criminal Code’s Article 175 prohibits sale and display of “indecent” documents, drawings and other material.

But police would need a reason to think anime porn could induce more crimes than, for example, live-action DVDs with blurred genitalia, which are now treated as legally acceptable by the authorities.

“Those who oppose anime porn have to present study results showing games and anime increase crime. Otherwise, police and the judicial system won’t change their view,” he said. “Pornographic Web sites and DVDs are everywhere in many languages, and police cannot crack down on all of them.”

The female rights group Equality Now says on its Web site that it has received an unprecedented amount of “hate mail” since it protested “Rapelay” and other pornographic manga, anime and games. Much of the mail opposes any regulation of manga or anime.

“Many of these messages have referred to statistics of rape in Japan that are reportedly far lower than in the U.S.,” the group says.

In the age of the Internet and cyberspace, national borders mean little, UNICEF’s Nakai said, noting users in any country can buy games made in Japan and share them with strangers over the Internet.

Also, the World Congress III Against the Sexual Exploitation of Children, joined by 125 countries, recognized that virtual content can be pornographic and infringe on children’s rights, Nakai said.

“Politicians must realize the world is connected via the Internet,” he said. “The law must be altered accordingly.”

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090612f2.html

See: Japan Under Pressure to Clamp Down on Child Pornography

(google translation of an article in Le Monde)

The documentary by Lorella Zanardo and Mark Malfa Chindemi shocks the Italian public

How are the Italian women of today? What are their peculiarities? What are their needs? These are not easy questions to answer, especially if one refers to the questionable model conveyed by television and the Italian culture.

Talk shows, reality and advertising today provide an image of femininity that defined as “shocking” would be only a pale euphemism: the female body is presented as a mere object of desire of men and women reduced to a simple “frame”, decorative presence in a universe seems not to give any figures, only ridicule and humiliate her mercilessly.

This set the basis for the documentary “The body of women”, screened on Thursday 28 May at the House of Culture in Milan. Achieved only at the beginning of this year, the video has already received a huge visibility and widespread consensus, thanks to web publishing and the ‘simple’ mouth.

Through a series of sequences, taken from television broadcasts, the authors Lorella Zanardo and Mark Malfa Chindemi, have produced a sharp deterioration in the reflection on national television and on the exploitation and the showing of the female body that seems to spread, now without brakes on the networks locally. Perfect bodies at all costs, sinuses and lips modified by cosmetic surgery, the pursuit of an ideal of perpetual youth, which makes women’s grotesque faces out of time and devoid of any uniqueness.

Accompanied by the voice of the Lorella Zanardo, alternating between the personal dismay and indignation at the quotes from famous authors such as Pasolini and Galimberti, the documentary strikes the viewer as “a bucket of ice water” as required to state ‘s Head of Culture Daniela Benelli, who spoke at the screening.

The evening, organized by Arcaduemila, hosted more than the already mentioned Benelli Alderman, the author Lorella Zanardo, director Rai Egidio Bertazzoni, Gabriella Gilli, Professor of Psychology at the Catholic University of Milan and Anna Di Dato, psychoanalyst of VIOLA which have expanded during the debate that followed, the insights provided by the documentary, reflecting on his unexpected success, a clear symptom of the emergence of a common discomfort.

And it is perhaps precisely this purpose and the merit of “The body of women.” The documentary is due to the frenetic editing by Cesare Cantù, surely makes it clear that every day there instead flows imperceptibly before our eyes, launching an appeal due to a growing awareness by all Italians.

http://www.lemonde.fr/archives/article/2009/05/11/ces-veline-par-qui-le-scandale-arrive-par-philippe-ridet_1191536_0.html

To watch the video:
* The Body of Women – “the dictatorship of the perfect body” – with English subtitles http://www.ilcorpodelledonne.it/documentary/
* Original video – Italian – http://www.ilcorpodelledonne.net/documentario/index.html

Web site http://www.ilcorpodelledonne.blogspot.com/

Playboy.com began hosting a feature on the website listing and mocking conservative women they’d like to “hate-****.” And at least one supposedly liberal blog picked up on it as a “lighter side of politics” entrant because ha ha, what could be funnier. Playboy has since taken the relevant posts down (you can read them here though the site is very slow to load probably due to high traffic), and Politico walked back its apparent endorsement.

More detailed accounts here (link is to a conservative site where the appended comments are best avoided ); and at Jezebel which recaps the disgusting things written about particular women . Another conservative blog offers this.

A lot of observers are expressing shock that Playboy would publish something like that – why they are surprised I have no idea.

http://feministlawprofessors.com/?p=11044

In the past 30 years, porn industry has grown into a $100-billion business

Few people understood right away that the June 1978 issue of Hustler magazine was an historic moment in the fight for sexual equality in North America.

The cover – showing a woman’s buttocks and legs sticking up from a meat grinder, with ground meat on a plate beneath the machine – was Hustler publisher and self-anointed free-speech champion Larry Flynt’s answer to feminist criticism.

“We will no longer hang women up like pieces of meat,” he quoted himself on the cover. In case anyone missed the sarcasm, the issue was stamped “LAST ALL MEAT ISSUE.”

That cover mobilized the women’s movement to fight against pornography like nothing else, said Richard Poulin in an interview this week. Poulin, a professor of sociology at the University of Ottawa, will speak today in Montreal, part of a conference on Youth, Media, and Sexualization organized by the Women’s Y.

Unfortunately for society, it was a battle the women’s movement lost, Poulin said, in part because feminists themselves were divided, with some arguing that it was a question of free expression and sexual liberation.

“This was a great failure for the women’s movement, for their struggle for equality,” said Poulin. Pornography today permeates society. It is available on television screens and in magazines. It is available to anyone of any age on the Internet.

“What has happened in the last 30 years is nothing less than a transformation of our social environment, of our mores,” said Poulin. “We don’t know yet what the consequences will be.”

It’s already clear, however, that youngsters are becoming sexualized much earlier in life. Worryingly, sexual assaults are now committed by younger assailants against younger victims. A few years ago, said Poulin, the average age among young offenders was 16 or 17. Today, it’s down to 14 or 15.

Young Canadians are also consuming pornography earlier. In a survey Poulin led last year among University of Ottawa students, he found that the average age at which they first looked at pornography was 13. Among those whose parents kept pornography in the home, the age was lower, 101/2.

Research shows that pornography leads to the normalization of what should be abnormal attractions. Poulin cited a survey showing that one in five men aged 22 or 23 admitted being sexually attracted to 13-year-old girls. “This is not a trivial trend,” he said.

Today, pornography is a $100-billion-a-year global industry. Child-pornography, sex tourism and human trafficking are fast-growing companion segments.

If pornography was hard to combat 30 years ago, it’s much harder today. Poulin defines pornography as an industry based on promoting the sexual subordination of one group of people to another. He said the same techniques are used in pornography as in prisons like Abu Ghraib: It is, he explained, a process of “inferiorization,” whereby being stripped naked is part of being made to feel inferior.

Poulin is not optimistic that pornography or its effects can be stopped. He said, however, there have been recent efforts to restart a much-needed social debate.

Rachel Chagnon, professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, who spoke at the YWCA conference “Youth, Media and Sexualization”, will be part of that effort. For the past year, Chagnon has been looking at the question of how to put an end to sexual stereotyping in the mass media.

Although existing regulatory bodies are in theory able to order offensive stereotypes off the airwaves or out of printed media, Chagnon said she was surprised to find out that regulatory bodies generally define “offensive” as pornographic only.

“Yet if we take for granted that sexual equality and non-discrimination is a founding principle of our society, we should be looking at the media to see if they perpetuate discrimination and stereotypes and trying to put a stop to that.”

Chagnon has led a team that studied rulings between 1992 and 2008 by regulatory bodies, covering TV and radio shows and advertising.

Advertisers are much faster than broadcasters to react to complaints about sexist or discriminatory material, Chagnon said.

But in an important way, most people just don’t get the idea that stereotypes are harmful, said Chagnon. “They think if both men and women are shown in stereotypical ways in the same ad, it’s OK.

“But if we as a society want to get rid of discrimination,” said Chagnon, “we have to stop leaning on stereotypes.”

http://www2.canada.com/montrealgazette/features/viewpoints/story.html?id=c32100c1-d547-4c93-b874-01e2ec3334d2

Careful to avoid being branded as a censor, the Department of Public Works and Highways is seeking allies, particularly women’s groups, to bolster its fight against suggestive commercial displays.

Earlier vowing to tear down billboards that showed models in skimpy attires, Undersecretary Rafael Yabut said the condemned structures had violated the national building code as well.

He said Task Force Baklas (dismantle) under him, would need perspective since determining something indecent or immoral was beyond the agency’s ken.

“Being in the field of infrastructure, we want to be guided by these women’s organizations because they know best issues that are detrimental to their interest, so we are going to sit down with them.”

Lined up for consultation are Asian Women’s Human Rights Council, Development Institute for Women in Asia Pacific, Institute of Women’s Studies, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, Third World Movement Against Exploitation of Women, University Center for Women’s Studies, and Women’s Studies and Resource Center.

The motley group variously examines issues on sex discrimination and stereotyping, education of the public on women’s rights among other gender controversies.

“We would like to know what they say about women or men being projected as sex objects on billboards,” said Yabut.

Due to intermittent rain, the task force cancelled the scheduled dismantling of at least 17 commercial displays found not only with code violations but also containing “indecent” material.

“We welcome the bad weather, which delayed our dismantling operations because it gives us more time to seek the wisdom of women’s organizations,” said Yabut.

He said more support is expected out of consultations with the religious sector led by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the Philippine Independent Catholic Church to bolster its campaign against illegal billboards.

Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. last year was upheld by the Court of Appeals in a case against Astro Advertising on regulating “indecent and immoral” materials.

Outdoor advertisers and suppliers have time and again threatened to sue the department on its power to “decide on advertising content.”

The sector had questioned Ebdane’s power to demolish billboards after Malacañang ordered a nationwide campaign in the aftermath of killer Typhoon Milenyo in 2006.

http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=police1_june5_2009

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.

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/268545.html