The United Nation’s Committee on the Right of the Child proposal for the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child draft from February, 2019 garnered a lot of attention from gamers and anime fans due to the language used in the draft that indicated guidance to enforce the restriction of drawings, cartoons, audio, and written works of fiction featuring “children” engaged in sexual exploitation. If the proposal was enforced it would obviously mean plenty of anime, games, and visual novels would get snuffed out of existence. Well, the U.N., posted up some of the responses from the State parties, individuals, and organizations, and some surprising countries came to the aid of anime.
Over on the OHCHR website they have the letters from all respondents available for public viewing. Specifically, the United States was the only State party to explicitly defend anime in writing against the U.N’s proposal, which they acknowledged such works (that weren’t deemed obscence) were protected by the First Amendment.
The U.S’ letter to the U.N., dated May 6th, 2019 actually agrees with a lot of the U.N’s proposals for protecting kids, but when it came to paragraph 62 about banning representations of “non-existing children”, the Human Rights Treaties Branch wrote…
“ In the United States, federal law provides that it is illegal to create, possess, or distribute a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene. However, visual depictions (CGI, anime, etc.) where there is not a “real” child are typically protected by the First Amendment (unless the visual depictions are obscene) and the United States’ obligations under the ICCPR. We suggest editing the paragraph as follows: “… urges States parties to prohibit, by law, consistent with their national legal systems, child sexual abuse material in any form …. including when such material represents realistic representations of non-existing children.”
It’s a subtle change, but recognizes that national law takes precedence over U.N., recommendations, and that anything not deemed “obscene” by regional law is still legal.
Japan had a similar rebuttal, which you can read here.
Interestingly enough they didn’t namedrop “anime” like the U.S., Human Rights Treaties Branch did.
Japan’s response to the U.N., was quite academic, filled with pedantry, and was straight to the point. They suggested that to avoid infringing on the freedom of expression, the language of the draft should only refer to existing children, and not non-existing children, which completely bypasses any need to argue over the specifics about cartoons, drawings, audio books, or visual novels. On page 2, paragraph 14, they explain…
“14. Japan believes that restriction on freedom of expression should be kept to a minimum and that highly careful consideration needs to be given to the scope of child pornography. In light of this, considering that ‘pornography’ is traditionally referred to as visually recognizable objects, whether it includes audio representations or written materials needs to be carefully considered. Japan thus proposes deleting “audio representations;” and “written materials in print or online;” from the third sentence of paragraph 61.
“In addition, for the reasons explained above, whether penal sanctions should be imposed even if the case involves pornography of a non-existing child needs to be carefully considered. Japan proposes adding “as far as it represents an existing child” at the end of paragraph 61. […]”
Austria’s response, which you can read here, was a lot less roundabout with their criticisms. They simply pointed out that drawings and fictional depictions did not constitute real kids and therefore was not child pornography. It’s a short response that mostly points out the flaws of the OPSC draft proposal, but near the end of the first page they bluntly state…
“According to the Committee’s proposal drawings and cartoons can be regarded as child pornography in the sense of Article 2 letter c of the OPSC. In this context, we would like to point out that the definition of child pornography in the more recent EU Directive 2011/93/EU comprises
1. depictions of a real child (Article 2 letter c (i) and (ii)
1. depictions of any person appearing to be a child (Article 2 letter c (iii)
2. realistic images of a child (Article 2 letter c (iv).
“As far as drawings and cartoons do not contain realistic images, we do not see the necessity to treat them as child pornography.”
The other State parties didn’t seem particularly interested in anime being affected like the U.S., Japan, and Austria.
However, plenty of stakeholders responded specifically in regards to the issues of cartoons, comics, mangas, and anime.
The Japan Society For Studies in Cartoons and Comics (JSSCC) specifically pointed out examples of how the U.N’s draft proposal could negatively impact celebrated and critically acclaimed works of fiction from out of Japan. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund also took umbrage with the classification of cartoons and fictional drawings, citing parallels with how restrictive measures against art and fictional drawings would only hurt the industry.
Similar sentiments were shared by Prostasia, Teenagers Group Against The Prohibition of Comics Animation and Games, as well as Tomohiro Yamada from the Center For Japanese Language and Culture from Osaka University in Japan, who also provided citations to research to point out that only 27% of child molesters were identified as having pedophilic interests, which was conducted by Michael C. Seto and Martin Lalumière in a study published back in December, 2000.
That study coincides with a couple of Danish reports that also indicated that loli images did not compel people to want to physically contact kids. Basically lolicons and shotacons are the complete opposite of actual U.N., workers who have allegedly been involved in over 60,000 cases of sexual exploitation involving minors, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.
Interestingly enough, the parts in the proposal about the drawings and cartoons was one of the most discussed topics among the people who wrote in to the U.N., about the issue. As stated in the OHCHR update…
“Among the submissions received from individuals, more than 200 concerned specifically paragraphs 61-63 of the draft Guidelines, with many of them referring also to paragraph 64. Other paragraphs that received numerous comments were paragraphs 43, 65-66, 68 (partially) and 77. More than 50 submissions contained the exact same text and were treated as one single contribution. Contributors identified themselves as professors, researchers, artists, citizens and survivors of sexual abuse.”
Obviously, when the lolis were in danger and the shotas were on the verge of extermination, some unlikely allies came out of the wood work to protect the little ones.
I dare say that I was genuinely shocked to see the United States expressly defend anime in their response. It’s a morale refresher during these dark times where the war on anime, and the oppression of weebs, have left many distraught and demoralized. But alas, there are still some who champion freedom of expression and the right to create, even when it offends.
Now some people believe that the U.N., has no power and that the proposal means nothing; but sometimes these proposals can influence social change even if they aren’t adopted via legislation. For instance, Reddit and Twitter were quick to crack down on lolis even before any laws were passed. If State parties did adopt laws to restrict certain anime or comic books based on the U.N’s proposal, well then things could get real ugly real fast. But thankfully we’re not there… yet.
From here we have to see what the U.N., does after receiving more than 300 comments about the draft proposal and whether or not they will move forward with the war on anime and comic books or if they will relent.
(Thanks for the news tip Epicus Maximus)