1. Forced Appearances in Adult Pornographic Videos (AV)
Damage to Young Women
In Japan, it has been frequently reported that many young women who were scouted as TV personalities or models were tricked or pressured into performing in adult pornographic videos (AV). In many cases, these young women signed agency contracts without knowing what would happen. The victims realized that they would be in a pornographic video only after being sent to a shooting location, and were told that they would have to pay a penalty if they refused the work.
Forced appearances in AV cause serious damage to victims, including physical and psychological harms. Not only are the victims forced to have “sexual intercourse” in the name of contract, but once the video is released, it continues to spread indefinitely on the internet. That causes suffering to women for a significant amount of time. As a result, the victims often suffer from PTSD, or in some cases, commit suicide.
In 2016, Human Rights Now (HRN) released an investigative report on the damage of forced appearances in adult pornographic videos, which resulted in a strong public reaction.
In March 2017, the Japanese government embarked on enacting damage prevention measures that focused on public awareness raising, but without regulatory agencies, laws, or regulations, the situation remained unchanged. Under these circumstances, HRN continued to sound alarm and raise social awareness on the issue in collaboration with victims of forced appearances in AV and victim support organizations.
Call for Legislative Action
The major turning point came in April 2022, when the legal age of adulthood in Japan was lowered from 20 to 18-years-old. Before the change was made, any contracts made between an actor/actress under 20-years-old and a film production agency could be canceled under law. However, beginning on April 1, 2022, the law no longer protects the right of people 18 years of age and older to cancel contracts once they are signed. In order to prevent further damage to young people, it has become necessary to call for a bill that allows 18- and 19-year-olds to cancel contracts for appearing in adult videos that they signed against their will.
(Emergency rally on March 15, 2022)
On March 15, 2022, HRN submitted a written request to political parties in Japan. On March 23, 2022, HRN and PAPS co-hosted an emergency rally in the National Diet building to urge Diet members to propose a bill that allows 18- and 19-year-olds to cancel contracts for appearing in pornographic videos that they signed against their will. The rally was widely covered by the media.
As discussions in the National Diet progressed in the following month, discussions between the ruling and opposition parties on the bill also began. On May 9, 2022, HRN and victim support organizations were invited to a hearing in the National Diet building. Along with five other organizations, HRN attended and submitted a written request and a joint written request to the hearing.
(Hearing on May 9, 2022)
From Bill to Law
On May 27, 2022, “The Adult Video Appearance Damage Prevention and Relief Bill” was unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives, and on June 15, 2022, it was adopted by the overwhelming majority of the House of Councilors and passed into law. On the same day, HRN held a press conference in the National Diet building along with PAPS and SPRING, victim support organizations, and Kurumin Aroma, a social activist/YouTuber/former actress. The new law entered into force on June 27, 2022.
(Press conference on June 15, 2022)
In order to relieve extremely serious damage that had not been exposed to light, it is necessary to immediately establish an implementation system for the new law and promote the establishment of a damage relief system. Making this law available and easily accessible to victims is another important task. It is necessary to establish counseling agencies that are easy to consult, disseminate information to related organizations, hold consultations and training, and above all, enhance public relations and outreach to those who need this law.
As an organization that played a central role in the advocacy of the new law, HRN will continue to ensure that it is properly implemented and damage relief is realized. We will continue to make our efforts to ensure that positive revisions will be considered in the review that is stipulated within two years from now.
2. Digital/Online Sexual Violence
In recent years, damage has been caused to victims by so-called “Digital sexual violence,” which typically consists of filming unconsented sexual acts or forcing victims to do sexual acts by threatening to distribute the filmed images to others. Therefore, it is necessary to establish provisions to punish unconsented filming.
To address these issues, HRN submitted a comprehensive legislative proposal titled “Request for the Establishment of a New Crime Related to the Photographing of Sexual Desire, etc.” on February 24, 2022 to political parties in Japan. In addition, HRN investigated legislations or policies of different countries to punish digital sexual violence and submitted an investigative report to the Legislative Council on April 27, 2022.
Although there is currently no definition of “Digital sexual violence” in the Japanese legal system, our report defines it as “the act of using a computer, smartphone, camera, or other electronic devices to photograph a person in a sexual manner without the person’s consent; distributing the actual video, etc.; using the photographed or created sexual images to harass, stalk, threaten, or otherwise cause emotional distress to the person; and forcing the person to send sexual selfies.“