Misguided Priorities and Self-Contradictions in the United Nations

Update: The UN Committee on the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has released their final report regarding women’s rights. Go here to see what they had to say about Japanese anime and manga.


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.

Update: Below is the answer provided by the Japanese government regarding the questions laid down by the CEDAW:

Question 7 Please indicate the measures taken to ban the sale of video games or cartoons involving rape and sexual violence against girls and women and to raise awareness among the producers of such materials, in line with the Committee’s general recommendation No. 19 on violence against women. Please also indicate the measures taken to address the mass production, distribution and use of pornographic videos in which women are targets of sexual violence, as well as the portrayal of sexualized commercial images of women.

35. Concerning video games and films, self-imposed regulation by the industry and its independent rating organizations have been carried out through ratings and reviews of such media containing sexually explicit and violent scenes or scenes including anti-social behavior, to ensure that ethically inappropriate games and films are not distributed.
36. In 46 prefectures, ordinances have been enacted, and a list of books designated as detrimental has been created to regulate the reading/browsing of such material by youths and the sale of such material to youths.
37. The Government of Japan (GOJ) clarifies the requirements for exemption from liability for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) through the Act on the Limitation of Liability for Damages of Specified Telecommunications Service Providers and the Right to Demand Disclosure of Identification Information of the Senders and the Act on the Prevention of Revenge Pornography. A list of the Internet addresses of websites that contain child pornography has been provided to ISPs and other relevant companies, and support is provided for voluntary measures to prevent the distribution of such material.
38. The police strengthened investigations on crimes by groups of child pornography consumer and crimes carried out with file-sharing software. In 2014, the police cleared 1,828 cases of child pornography (746 children were victimized). These numbers represent a record high.
39. In 2014, 850 arrests for obscenity offences committed using computer networks, and 185 arrests for crimes related to the sale of obscene DVDs, were made. Press releases regarding those arrests have been held accordingly.
40. Distribution, public display of, and possession for distribution purposes of obscene drawings are punishable under Article 175 of the Penal Code. The possession, production, provision, and public display of child pornography is also punishable under the Act on Regulation and Punishment of Acts Relating to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Protection of Children (Paragraph 189 of the Reports). Such crimes are dealt with by administering strict and appropriate dispositions and sentences. This Act was revised in June 2014 to criminalize acts of producing child pornography through secret filming, as well as acts of possession and storage of child pornography for the purpose of satisfying sexual curiosity.
41. To reduce browsing by youths of harmful information on the Internet including pornography, the GOJ implements measures to improve youths’ Internet literacy by providing information, raising awareness, and promoting the use of filtering services.

All of the above was retrieved from here.

March 7th, 2016 Update:

The UN Committee on the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has released their final report regarding women’s rights and they have returned to the subject of anime and manga.

Stereotypes and harmful practices

20. The Committee remains concerned at the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society. The Committee is particularly concerned that:
(a) The persistence of these stereotypes continues to be reflected in the media and educational textbooks and has an impact on educational choices and the sharing of family and domestic responsibilities between women and men;
(b) The media often depicts women and girls in a stereotyped manner including as sex-objects;
(c) Stereotypes continue to be the root causes of sexual violence against women and that pornography, video games and animation such as manga promote sexual violence against women and girls; and
(d) Sexist speech continues to be directed against women, ethnic and other minority women such as the Ainu, Buraku and Zainichi Korean women and migrant women.

21. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/JPN/CO/6, para. 30) and urges the State party to:
(a) Intensify its efforts to change social norms that reinforce traditional roles of women and men and to promote positive cultural traditions that promote the human rights of women and girls;
(b) Effectively implement existing legal measures and monitoring programmes in order to regulate the production and distribution of pornographic material, video games and animation that exacerbate discriminatory gender stereotypes and reinforce sexual violence against women and girls;
(c) Review educational textbooks and materials to eliminate discriminatory gender stereotypes;
(d) Adopt legislation to prohibit and sanction sexist speech and propaganda advocating racial superiority or hatred, including attacks on ethnic and other minority women such as the Ainu, Buraku and Zainichi Korean women as well as migrant women; and
(e) Regularly monitor and assess the impact, through an independent expert body, of measures taken to eliminate discriminatory gender stereotypes and prejudices against Ainu, Buraku, Zainichi Korean women and migrant women.

Underlines by myself.
All of the above was retrieved from here.



This entry was posted in censorship, harmful material, public morality and media. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Misguided Priorities and Self-Contradictions in the United Nations

  1. Nicky says:

    Well, i like, sorta of, the reply of japanese government. The UN should stop to stick their nose into other countries matters, and you are 100% right, they should focus on real crimes about real people, not fictional works protected by freedom of speech where nobody is harmed.
    These people are shameless and it show that they have nothing better to do. Hope this not bring more restrictions, there are already so much in place.

    Thanks for the article Dan.

  2. Sean says:

    japan won’t do jack about all “harmful” materials to please the game of thrones crowd anytime soon. However because of the 2020 olympics…around 2018-2019 I bet we will hear the passage of a bill to removal of anime, games, VNs, LNs and hentai containing rape, lolis and other “harmful” things…while some 20 something yr old actress will act as a 15 yr old in a sex scene on hbo.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, I don’t know much about the OHCHR, but there were so many spelling mistakes, missing commas, etc, in that .pdf, that I felt like you could almost ignore it. They don’t seem too professional. Just random UN bureaucracy, that’s also being replied by other bureaucrats. Granted, I could be entirely wrong.

    Moving on, it was sad to see them state that sexy women in media is a problem. They shouldn’t be trying to impose the sex-negativity of their home countries upon foreign ones. It makes the UN seem more and more like the old League of Nations. There were a lot of actual issues there, but I don’t feel sexy women in ads are a problem, and even if I personally abhor depictions of sexual violence, I’m not yet convinced banning it will help with anything. Japan should make sure, though, such content isn’t easily reachable by children in stores, as it was implied in their report.

    However, I was also very sad to see some very retwitted Japanese comments saying things like Comfort Women are diplomatic matter between Japan and “Korea” to an UN human rights agency, some going as far as saying it’s not a women’s right matter.

    Overall, I was just extremely sad in humanity that day.

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