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The UN, Sexual Violence, and Games

Robert Grosso / February 13, 2016 at 11:33 AM / Gaming, News

Intergovernmental organization the United Nations is looking into Japan and other countries regarding their women’s rights records. As part of the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Japan is one of eight countries, including Sweden, Haiti and Mongolia that will be have their current women’s rights record on review.

Japan, however, is unique because of one stipulation that is not found in the other reviews; and that is a possible CEDAW recommendation on the banning of video games and cartoons that specifically promote “sexual violence against women.”  Some websites have reported this as the UN overstepping their boundaries, calling into question the UN’s ability to authoritatively comment on these issues due to recent allegations regarding their own peacekeeping forces.

According to the CEDAW report to Japan (point 36), the committee “strongly urges the State party to ban the sale of video games or cartoons involving rape and sexual violence against women which normalize and promote sexual violence against women and girls.”  The Committee goes on to recommend  that the Japanese government would include this ban in its revision of the countries child pronography laws, thus selling video games depicting sexual violence a capital offense. 

Sexual violence is defined by the World Health Organization as  “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.” The WHO goes into detail with several examples of what sexual violence can be, including rape and genital mutilation, and possible prevention tactics to curtail sexual violence, such as proper support through education and medical care, and prevention campaigns. The WHO does admit, however, that data regarding how effective these prevention tactics has not been fully studied.

Under the UN charter, they have the power to recommend changes to a state’s law system through their committees, but little authority to mandate such changes. Japan has also already responded to all of the proposals by the CEDAW, and in the case of point 36 and video games, the country has noted that independent ratings boards for video games and movies are already in place to prevent sexually explicit, along with excessively violent and games including anti-social behavior are not distributed.

The United Nations has been going through major changes in the last two years regarding allegations of sexual abuse. The CEDAW is just one of several committees that are looking to curtail sexual violence, and the internal issues of sexual abuse by U.N Peacekeeping forces, which current secretary general Ban-Ki-Moon has called “A cancer in our system,”has been met with stricter guidelines for UN peacekeeping forces and countries, including suspending the pay of peacekeepers and their member states funding.  However, the UN lacks any official authority to internally investigate such allegations, often relying on state-level investigations and punitive actions which often lead to no investigations, or rely on member states cooperation in such matters.

In the case of Japan, it is likely that the CEDAW will recommend changes, but Japan will likely continue to rely on independent rating groups that classify video games. If anything, the distribution of underground games, such as Battle Raper or the Biko series, some of which are a decade old, may have possession laws changed to a criminal offenses because of their subject matter. 

Your thoughts on this entire ordeal? Please leave your comments below. 

Robert Grosso

Staff Writer

A game playing, college teaching, erudite-minded scholar who happens to write some articles every so often. Have worked as a journalist, critic, educator and blogger for over five years now, with articles published (as user editorials) on Game Revolution and Giant Bomb as well as a contributor for the websites Angry Bananas and Blistered Thumbs. Now making TechRaptor my home.