Friday, January 29, 2010

Japanese attempts at disguising child porn

Lately, Japanese police are playing the incredibly squicky game "Is It Child Pornography." Here's how you play: you find a DVD marketed to adult men, and on the cover is a 10-year-old girl in a string bikini, posing with her legs splayed and the most come-hither look in her eye a kid of that age can muster. The DVD consists of videos of pre-pubescent and young teen girls having pillow fights, eating lollipops, and doing other activities in minimal clothing. Yet no one is naked, and no actual sex acts are happening. So is the DVD child pornography? Yes.
DVDs like the one described here are generally referred to as "junior idol" films, and according to Japanese law, they aren't child pornography because the kids in them are not nude. But the Tokyo police department is still worried, because the age of the children in "junior idol" photos and videos is steadily decreasing. Now, children as young as five are showing up regularly, wearing tiny bathing suits and bending over for the camera. And while only G-rated body parts are actually shown, the way the children are instructed to stand and look into the camera is overtly sexual most of the time.
Child advocates in Japan have called for a need to regulate these publications and create mechanisms to prevent parents from exploiting their kids in this way. Many argue that while a number of the children in "junior idol" videos are too young to realize what's happening, once they grow up enough to understand that images of them were used without their knowledge in publications meant to arouse, they might be traumatized. "Junior idols" might not be child porn to the law, they argue, but it sure is child porn to the victimized children.
Sadly, this trend is not limited to Japan. The Internet is full of "child modeling" galleries, which showcase images of children -- some who look to be toddlers -- in poses that are obviously meant to be sexually arousing and produce the same ends as nude child pornography. However, because these sites don't show pictures of genitals or children engaged in sex acts, law enforcement has a difficult time removing them from the web. But staying within the letter of the law doesn't mean these images aren't capturing the spirit of porn. And it doesn't mean they aren't exploiting or harming their young subjects.
I did some research into child pornography for an anti-trafficking organization a few years ago, and I can honestly say that time was one of the worst periods of my life. Before I started really researching, I had gotten my image of child pornography from episodes of Law and Order SVU and similar TV shows. There, whenever they find child porn it's always an image of a fully clothed girl sitting on a bed a looking sad. Obviously they can't show real child pornography on television, but part of me (and I think part of some other people) kinda assumed that's all child porn was. But real child pornography is nothing like that -- it's violent, nauseating, and even in the images of non-nude child models, you can see the shame and hurt on the kids' faces. But, most importantly, all child pornography is proof that abuse, and in some cases forced prostitution and rape, took place.
I'm not fooled by "junior idols" or non-nude "child modeling" sites, and neither are Japanese or American police. We know what you're up to, and we're not going to stand for it.

Photo credit: tetsumo

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