The U.S. Department of State recently joined the United Nations in suggesting that Japan should restrict certain types of manga and anime, condemning what it calls “unfettered availability of sexually explicit cartoons, comics, and video games, some of which depicted scenes of violent sexual abuse and the rape of children.” The statement came in the midst of an annual report on the state of human rights in countries around the world.
Alongside some very legitimate areas of concern regarding sexual exploitation of actual human minors in Japan, the State Department report cites unidentified “experts” who said that children are harmed by “a culture that appears to accept the depiction of child sexual abuse” in manga and anime. In an ironic twist, another section of the report on freedom of speech noted approvingly that Japan’s “constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights.”
The State Department report comes five months after a UN special envoy on child protection said after a fact-finding trip to Japan that the country should ban “particular, extreme child pornographic content” even if it does not involve any actual children. In March, a separate UN committee on women’s rights also urged a ban on “the sale of video games or cartoons involving sexual violence against women” of any age.
The State Department country reports have been produced since 1976 and are submitted to Congress for the purpose of monitoring human rights around the world. The recently released 2015 report removed a clause that had been present in previous editions noting that Japan’s National Police Agency “continued to maintain that no link was established between…animated images and child victimization.” Manga and anime were first mentioned in the 2007 report on Japan, which claimed that “child molesters used cartoons and comics depicting child pornography to seduce children.” The mention vanished in the 2008 report, but returned in 2009 with the acknowledgement that NPA denied there was any link between manga or anime and actual sexual abuse.
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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.