Japan has finally sealed the loophole that allowed pedophiles to slide under the radar for the past few years. Becoming one of the last countries to officially ban the possession of child porn, it’s previous laws only focusing on distribution and production of underage pornography. This, however, does not ban the sexualization of young girls in anime or manga, often referred to as lolicon.
As a whole, much of Japan popular culture focuses on “kawaii” or cute, usually associated with young girls. The image of youth is desired and marketed across the country, beauty supplies that create the appearance of a innocent or childish look are sold to both men and women. Beginning in the 1970’s during Japan’s economic recovery, shojou or young girls, became the face of advertising. Pop idols and actresses, usually pubescent girls, presented an image of “purity” and “chastity” often referred to as junior idols. Usually, within the ages of twelve or thirteen years old, these girls are pictured in bikinis and suggestive poses, displayed in posters and billboards across the mass media. High school girls in Japan are also a symbolic piece of pop culture, and fetishized to the extreme. The word chikan, or a person who commits public acts of molestation, is not new in Japan. New studies show that around fifty percent of young women have been molested on a train, many being underage girls.
Another key issue is ecchi, or animated pornography, that displays young girls in sexual acts under the lolicon sub-genre. Many fans argue that banning these forms of erotic artwork would be a violation of their free speech. The argument comes down to whether or not artwork or visual media that displays rape and sexualization of pre-pubescent girls will encourage these acts. Although rates of rape and pedohilia are lower in Japan, statistics do not clearly show if fantasy outlets such as lolicon decrease chances of real attacks. Since the age of consent is thirteen in Japan, a new trend among Japanese teens has risen during these two decades. Enjo kosai, or compensated dating, can be seen as a form of child prostitution. Usually consisting of a high school girl receiving money or gifts from older men in return for companionship and sexual favors. Only recently receiving media attention, with several films depicting it in the early 90’s. The majority of high school girls interviewed said they would not take part in it, only twenty percent admitted to participating in enjo kosai. Much of the general population frowns upon this, blaming it on the younger generations increased interest in materialistic goods.
Japan is not the only culprit, Russia and parts of Africa do not have laws on possession of child pornography, allowing it to remain legal even with pressure from other countries. We should also remember that Japan is a beautiful country with an interesting culture that promotes humility and respect. This is simply a synopsis of a general problem that is not only active in Asia, but the West as well.
By Obeydah Chavez