The United Nations’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) provides an important role in protecting human rights around the world. They not only address violations of human rights where people’s lives are threatened by violence, but they also attempt to reveal systemic abuses and discriminatory practices that thwart people from realizing their full potential.
Unfortunately, sometimes in their zeal to address social ills, the OHCHR not only seems to exhibit misguided priorities and over-simplified issues revolving around artistic expression and singled out Japanese anime and video games, but self-contradicted one of the core tenants of enshrined in the United Nations.
Under the heading of “Japan’s record on women’s rights to face review by UN Committee”, the UN Committee on the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) will examine Japan’s records on women’s rights. It states that: “Among the possible issues for discussion between CEDAW and a delegation from the Japanese Government are: Banning the sale of video games or cartoons involving sexual violence against women; employment equality, illegal dismissal of women due to pregnancy and childbirth; sexual harassment in the workplace; reintegration into school textbooks of issue of “comfort women”; compensation for women with disabilities sterilised against their will; effect on women, particularly pregnant women, of health programmes introduced after the Fukushima nuclear disaster; difference in pension benefits for men and women, poverty among older women.” [Italicization by myself.]
Let’s review that list once more.
The have listed “Banning the sale of video games or cartoons involving sexual violence against women” at the very top.
I hate to sound presumptuous, but aren’t the rights of real women far more important than the rights of women in fiction?
If they wish to address how social attitudes against women are forged in Japan, would it not be important to address the totality of media messaging that is infused with movies, magazines, TV, and more?
And why are they jumping to conclusions by assuming that a ban is necessary? And why is it necessary only in the case of video games and cartoons? If a ban is necessary, does it not makes sense to prioritize how real women are depicted in adult films? Few people would mistake manga characters as being real.
Or is the CEDAW of the belief that manga, anime, and video games are more influential than movies, television, and photographs, just as in the case of the revision to the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths? (See Anime and Manga More Harmful Than TV and Films According to Tokyo).
As I have stated many times before in this blog and else where, it is my belief that regulating fiction to address real social ills is both misguided and counterproductive. Thought policing has never worked in course of human history. It simply diverts resources that would be better utilized elsewhere and helps construct Orwellian regulatory authorities where the public is constantly left guessing as to the extent to which their free speech may be prosecuted at the whim of the censors. Dangerous thoughts and their expressions will always find ways to surface. It is far better to educate and allow people to openly debate controversial and unpopular subjects, instead of pretending that censoring culture will some how make the public more civil.
Morality and civility must be learned. Sheltering people from “dangerous thoughts” is no guarantee they would be nicer people. If anything, an artistic culture laden with taboos and required to adhere to laws of the real world is repressive and not conducive to creativity.
A culture grows richer by addition, not by subtraction.
And further more, the United Nations themselves have stated:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (quoted from UNESCO’s website.)
While some examples may be unpopular, any form of fictional manga is a mere expression of a person’s thoughts, not an incitement to action nor declaration of fact.
The logic of regulating fiction and ideas because they might provoke some towards in reality is a dangerous threshold to cross. It is akin to absolving a sexual perpetrator of their personal responsibility for the act they have conducted for it places blame on their environment, and not the individual.
We need to address real crimes and real social issues by confronting them in the real world, not the fictional world.