Report on the status and challenge of ending child pornography in Japan

Report on the status and challenge of ending child pornography in Japan

On September 5, 2016, Human Rights Now released an investigative report detailing the status and challenge of ending child pornography in Japan.

The report revealed that suspected child pornography materials are available at certain stores in the Tokyo area as well as on the internet.

Although Japan enacted legislation with the aim of eradicating child pornography, the laws have not been sufficiently implemented due to lack of enforcement.

Lack of proper understanding on the scope of child pornography is also causing problems.

Human Rights Now urges law makers to introduce additional regulations to tackle the problem. We also call on the law enforcement agencies to adopt a Zero Tolerance approach to this issue.

The press conference held by the Human Rights Now was widely reported in Japan, as well as in some foreign media.

Download the report:

Japanese version [PDF]

Summary of Report

1. Child pornography is the exploitation and sexual abuse of children, accompanied by the abuse of human rights of the child, and is prohibited by treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In 1999, Japan passed the “Act on Punishment of Activities Relating to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Protection of Children” (“Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Act”). The second amendment of the regulation was in 2014 and is currently in effect.
From May 2015, an international human rights NGO based in Japan, Human Rights Now (“HRN”), investigated whether child pornography was effectively regulated by the Act and whether it was being eradicated. Based on the investigation, HRN prepared this report. In this report, according to the Act, “child pornography” refers only to products in which real children are involved, and such child pornography were analysed.

2. Results from HRN’s investigation team’s one-year investigation of child pornography in shops in Tokyo and on the Internet confirm that:
• DVDs that are obviously advertised as “child pornography”;
• Pornographic DVDs that advertised that the performer is under 18 years of age; and
• Pornographic DVDs where the performers are suspected to be under 18 years of age in their appearance, clothes, and body type, etc.
are overtly and widely circulated as commercial products, are displayed and sold in shops, and distributed through the Internet.

Although it was a short-term investigation, it clearly revealed that explicit child pornography and images and videos that were suspected as child pornography were everywhere.
The reasons for such situation are as follow:
1) Unclear information about the age of performers, making it difficult for police and investigators to determine whether ‘children’ are involved and to take action.
2) Inadequate system to examine the content on whether performers are under the age of 18 in distribution and selling stages.
3) In adequate substantial checking system regarding item that falls under article 2, 3 (3)(iii) of the Act (“item 3 pornography”).

3. As a result of the HRN investigation team’s inquiries to police regarding the reality of the regulation, the following issues seem to be the causes that are preventing effective enforcement of the regulation:
• Due to underreporting, identifying the victims and confirming their ages is difficult. Thus, it is difficult to prove that performers in the pornographic products are under the age of 18.
• Law enforcement prioritizes the regulation of ‘malicious’ child pornography,, therefore the regulation of “item 3 pornography” that is broadly sold as commercial products is not thorough.
• There are insufficient human resources to regulate child pornography(online patrol for ‘malicious’ child pornography is the priority)
• Despite the Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Act, the police is biased in favor of manufacturers, believing that the products being sold publicly in shops or through the Internet are not child pornography.

4(a). Images and videos that are suspected as child pornography are classified as two categories:
(i). the products that record sexual conducts or sexual intercourse (including suspicious ones) (“item 1 pornography” or “item 2 pornography”); and
(ii). other products that do not include such sexual conducts (“item 3 pornography”)
The videos that the HRN investigation team found in shops include both above categories. In addition, although many products did not pass the screening of the screening institutions, they were still publicly sold in major adult video stores or major online shopping sites such as DMM.
In particular, “Chakuero”[1] videos may not include any sexual conduct or sexual intercourse, but should still be applicable to the second classification (“item 3 pornography”). Instead, they are regarded as non-adult products, and most manufacturers do not belong groups like the Specified Nonprofit Corporation Intellectual Property Promotion Association (IPPA), and thus these videos often do not pass the screening of the screening institutions.
“Chakuero” and image videos may actually include products that depict physical contact between female and male performers, but are circulated without any screenings, according to a relating institution.

4(b). On the other hand, some products that emphasize that the performers are elementary students and are strongly suspected as child pornography may nonetheless pass the screening institutions’ screening.
According to an interview of a screening institution, it has tightened its screening standard since 2015 and products that are suspected to be child pornography do not pass the screening now. However, the new screening standard was not publically available at the time of publication of this report, so we were unable to confirm the exact screening standard used.
In addition, although the standard was tightened, products that had already passed the screening with the old standard were not withdrawn and thus continue to be distributed in the market.
Furthermore, the screening institutions do not have a mechanism to confirm suspect products believed to be child pornography and the rating association does not have an effective system to confirm the age of the performers, as they often trust that the producers will not use performers that are under the age of 18.

4(c). Moreover, as there is a presumption that child pornography would not be sold in shops, no independent system exists to check for such products. As a result, shops often openly sell these products.
Shops also sell suspect products that did not go through the screening institution. Also, even if there are products that are suspected to be child pornography, there is no mechanism in place to verify the performer’s age and name from official documents.

Because products that are applicable to “item 3 pornography” continue to be publicly sold in stores, it seems that stores do not fully comprehend the regulation of the “item 3 pornography” and believe that the genre such as “Chakuero” and image videos are permitted by law.

It became clear that, due to the circumstances mentioned above, the following products are still being sold in the market:
• products that are suspected as child pornography without passing the screening (including “Chakuero” and image videos);
• products that passed screening before the revision of the screening standard in 2015; and
• products that passed the new screening but are suspected as child pornography because the screening institution did not check the age of the performer

4(d). After analysing online retailers, it became clear that the situation is similarly to those store products mentioned in Section 4(c), and are being sold and distributed..
In addition, there are websites that provide ‘streaming’ to attract live viewers, and state that the act would not fall under the crime of possession.

Organizations such as the Internet Content Safety Association (ICSA) has begun work to block child pornography. Internet providers and rental servers of adult video websites prohibit illegal content. In addition, search engines like Google has also taken steps to prevent child pornography from appearing on search results. However, notwithstanding these efforts, there is still a large amount of child pornography and suspicious content on the Internet, and such content can be still be easily found through search engines.

The causes of the situation may be as follows:
• relevant producers do not have systems in place to check the performers’ age
• “item 3 pornography” is not fully recognized, and the misconception that “Chakuero” and image videos are legally permitted continues to spread

5. Based on these analyses, HRN had a chance to bring attention to the existing situation and request corrective action by communicating with investigators, related organizations, and businesses. The following changes have occurred:
• The Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) has acknowledged the issue of unscreened “Chakuero” in June 2016 and has issued warnings regarding unscreened “Chakuero” to screening institutions and stores in July 2016.The Specified Nonprofit Corporation Intellectual Property Promotion Association (IPPA), an adult video industry group, has requested dealers who handle adult videos not to handle unscreened products.An association of adult video shops, Sellmedia Network Association, responded to the acknowledgement from the Metropolitan Police Department and stated that they will prevent the recurrence and handling of unrated products..The screening institutions have started to consider HRN’s recommendation to further tighten the screening standard of child pornography, and withdraw and dispose of products that were approved by the previous standard, as well as require age verification of performers at the rating stage.
HRN welcomes these positive actions of relevant institutions and producers to eradicate child pornography and will continue to seek for effective enforcements.

6. Although this investigation at does not include the background of involved minors in sexual exploitation and related production companies, it nonetheless shows that the existence of scouting by production companies are related to the connection of children with ‘Chakuero’ and image videos. It is believed that there is a lack of monitoring and control within the production companies who have children under the age of 18, which means they are not complying with the Act of the Prevention of Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, Child Welfare Act, Labour Act (in relation to the employment of minors as set under Article 56 of the Labour Standards) to ensure that children are not being sexually exploited. As such, there is a critical need for improvements of the existing law as well as an effective monitoring system in order to protect the rights of children.

7. To improve such situation and eradicate child pornography, effective work based on causal analysis is essential. At the end of the report, HRN, based on the results of its investigation, has made recommendations to the government, police and related businesses. In particular, HRN has made suggestions on possible new legislation that are in line with international standards and foreign practices. HRN thus requests related parties to sincerely accept our recommendations and to implement them.
At the same time, there is a need for the society as a whole to renew the recognition of the situation.
In order to protect minors from exploitation and abuse, , accurate understanding of the prohibition of pornography against children under the age of 18 (including the “item 3 pornography”) under the Act must be established, and child pornography must not be allowed under any circumstances (“Zero tolerance”). HRN strongly urges relevant institutions to make changes to the current situation and breakthrough the wall of ‘suspected’ child pornography, which is preventing the progress of intervention.

Outline of recommendations
To the government (the Cabinet Office and relevant cabinet ministers):
(1) To investigate (a) the production, sales, circulation, and delivery of child pornography, (b) the circumstances in which children get involved in child pornography, and (c) relevant industries and actual harm, and to take necessary steps to prevent such production, circulation, and harm.
(2) To consider effective monitoring mechanisms and legal regulations so that the productions that employ children under the age of 18 thoroughly protect the rights of the child and employee.
(3) To officially announce that “item 3 pornography” is child pornography and eradicating it is an important mission for all government ministries, municipalities, public institutions, community at large, and relevant industries.

To the police:
(1) To acknowledge the elimination of child pornography as the highest priority, to allocate necessary financial support and manpower, and to prohibit child pornography without any exception for any genre, like “Chakuero” or image videos, etc. (“zero tolerance”).
(2) To verify the age of performers through its supply chain unless the age of the performer is unmistakably over 18 and to actively pursue cases in which the age of the performer is not verified.
(3) To inform the entire Metropolitan Police Department that “item 3 pornography” is also considered to be child pornography, and should be a focus of active investigation and enforcement.
(4) To strengthen its search capability, to develop and educate human resources, to ensure necessary manpower in each police station and to strengthen regulations.
To governmental institutions and lawmakers to consider the following legislation:
(1) Make it mandatory for all related entities in the pornography industry, including those who produce, edit, distribute, rate, sell, and deliver, to keep information to verify all performers, and impose sanctions on those who violate..
(2) Make it mandatory for providers of pornography to report to the relevant government agency if they discover child pornography.

To relevant institutions:
(1) To have the stance of zero tolerance towards child pornography, regardless of whether it is ‘Chakuero’ or image videos.
(2) To completely ensure that there is no production, distribution, selling, delivering, or renting of child pornography, including those that fall under “item 3 pornography”.
(3) To check the performer’s name, identity, and age by official documents (ID) in all stages of production, distribution, selling, delivery, and rental of pornography.
(4) To make public a standardized, clarified, and stricter rating standard in order for all products that gets rated to comply with the current law the following is needed:
• To verify performer’s age in the screening phase by official documents and reject products if there is no identification to show that the performer is over the age of 18.
• To equally prohibit child pornography, including but not limited to, “item 3 pornography”.
(5) As self-regulation, to stop the promotion of child pornography and pornography where the performers look like children.
(6) To stop the handling, selling, distributing, selling on the internet, and delivering products that did not pass current screening standards.
(7) To impose rules that will stop the selling, mail ordering, and distributing of child pornography and suspected child pornography in shops and online retailers.

Towards internet-related manufacturers:
(1) To actively check pornography that contain performers under the age of 18, including the item 3 pornography, whether or not they are “Chakuero” or image videos.
(2) To take necessary steps to prevent users from accessing illegal content like child pornography by, e.g., blocking user access and deleting websites.

[1]Chakuero videos often depict idols who model almost nude, but never fully nude. For example, the idol may be covering her chest with her arm.