Press Release from Equality Now

Remember the RapeLay video game, written about by Melissa and Cara back in February? Equality Now has been working to persuade Japan to uphold its obligations under UN conventions with respect to material that normalises and/or promotes violence against women and girls.



Equality Now calls on the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the country’s newly-elected administration recently sworn into office, to ban all games that normalize and promote violence against women and girls. During a recent review of Japan’s compliance with its obligations under the UN’s Women’s Convention (CEDAW), the CEDAW Committee strongly urged Japan “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.”

This follows wide public debate including about computer games produced in Japan such as RapeLay in which players simulate the rape and sexual abuse of women and girls. Equality Now launched a global campaign in May 2009 targeting corporations involved in the production and sale of such games, known as hentai, as well as the then ruling party of Japan. Post-elections,
Equality Now’s campaign will continue to pressure the corporations as well as urging the new DPJ administration to comply with its international obligations.

In the last few months since the launch of Equality Now’s global campaign there have been some restrictions on sale of these games. Both Amazon Japan and Illusion Software have stopped selling RapeLay, although they continue to sell similar titles. Fearing international outcry, a few companies have restricted on-line access of such games to customers in Japan alone. A few other companies are trying to evade negative publicity by simply changing titles and pictures of games, deleting words such as “rape”, and marketing the same games euphemistically under categories such as “platinum”.

Japan’s Ethics Organization of Computer Software (EOCS), one of the industry’s self-regulating bodies, has reportedly banned the production of games containing certain forms of violence against women and the ban is supposed to go into effect in October. The terms of this ban have not been made public. It will not apply to game production companies that are not members of EOCS. In addition, there are several companies that are members of other regulatory bodies such as the government-managed Contents Soft Association (CSA), which reportedly has even more lenient standards than EOCS when rating games that promote sexual violence. Further it seems as if a company that violates the ban will simply not get a rating for its game, which will still be able to be sold in Japan. It is unclear if there will be any other adverse consequences for violating the ban.

Taina Bien-Aimé, Equality Now’s Executive Director, explains, “The EOCS ban is simply not enough given the scale of extreme pornography and violence against women in the Japanese gaming industry. We need a government-mandated uniform standard applicable to all hentai production companies that will make it illegal to produce games that promote violence against women and girls.” She adds, “The DPJ administration must understand that by allowing the violent hentai gaming industry to flourish, Japan is in violation of its international commitments to uphold the rights of women and girls. We
encourage the DPJ, as the new ruling party of Japan, to show early and firm leadership in the protection and promotion of women’s rights, including by the critical step of implementing all recommendations of the CEDAW Committee.”

For more information, please read our updated Women’s Action .

About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

9 comments on “Press Release from Equality Now

  1. I had no idea that Japan had such a reputation for promoting violence against women/girls.

    • Just googled this:

      The United States has the world’s highest rape rate of the countries that publish such statistics. It’s 4 times higher than Germany, 13 times higher than England, and 20 TIMES HIGHER THAN JAPAN.

      Equality Now is barking up the wrong tree.

      • That reported rapes are so much lower doesn’t mean that it’s all about rape games satisfying rape urges or whatever it is that you are implying.

  2. Perhaps this rebuttal post will clarify why Equality Now is making a mistake:

    [Moderator note: links to posts on single-purpose, single-post blogs are never a good sign. When that post also does not link to a single peer-reviewed study despite claiming that there are mountains of supporting evidence, that’s another not-good sign. When the link is posted by someone using a null email address, that’s a very not-good sign. So your link is not going to be posted here. ~ tigtog]

  3. The little random bits of hentai I’ve seen have far more rape than consensual sex. Never understood how someone can get off on that stuff.

  4. Given that feminists disagree about pornography, why should some games be singled out? In more mainstream games, like Fallout 2, the player can kill or enslave women and children. Yet, to my knowledge, there was no feminist outcry about it. Could xenophobia be a possible factor? Violence etc doesn’t matter much if it’s a US game.

    Does any empirical evidence exist to suggest that playing specific games will actually increase the real violence towards women? I do not have the statistics about rape/violence towards women in Japan, are they significantly higher than in the US?

    I see this as a basic freedom of speech/expression issue. As such, I defend the right to disagree with my own opinion, or that of anyone else – including Equality Now’s. How many of those supporting the ban has actually played such games? And how many rely on Equality Now’s speculation?

    As a thought-experiment, would feminists want to ban a game based on the SCUM manifesto, acting it out in all the graphical glory a modern workstation is capable of? Would feminists support banning non- or anti-feminist books?

    This might be a somewhat hasty and inflammatory first post, but I hope it will be accepted in the spirit of free inquiry and exchange of ideas. Please note that I am a non-native speaker of english, so my spelling and grammar might be wrong.

  5. I can’t answer for any other feminist than myself (we are not a hivemind, we share some ideals and goals but beyond that the details differ greatly). As to why some games get singled out and not others, that’s a function of which messages get noticed and promulgated by others – that’s its own whole field of analysis and people who are very good at it can make big bucks in the advertising/PR field.

    That’s not my field, but I would advise that “to my knowledge, there’s no outcry” is not a reliable method of deducing how many people find something offensive or threatening. Many people simply don’t manage to craft or target their message precisely enough to get wider attention.

  6. Games that rely on action-movie style shoot’em violence don’t trouble me too much. Like most of the rest of our society, extravagant explosions and piles of dead henchmen don’t offend me because they are such obvious fantasy – there is no real-world parallel, one cannot go out and find such situations and join in.

    General combat simulators are more problematic – their correspondence to the real world is closer, and people can go and find actual combat situations to join if they find the notion appealing. There is some pragmatic social utility to that, but the fact that morally toxic exploits are built into some combat games is troubling when one considers that part of honourable combat is treating civilians and prisoners ethically – what impact does modelling “winning” by engaging in the abuse of human rights have on how soldiers act in battle?

    Now on to sexual/gendered violence in movies and games – this does trouble me greatly, because it seems like an instruction manual for violence that really does happen in the world, in every neighbourhood – no need to make any effort to find a suitable target. Stalking that escalates to rape and/or murder of women and children happens all the time. The enslavement of women and children happens in a depressing large number of societies around the world, also easily found by those that get off on it.

    Does this mean that games that promote violence/abuse that mirrors real world violence/abuse rather than fantastic violence should be banned? I think it’s a defensible proposition. It’s also a very different proposition from the hypothetical banning of books – reading involves high-level intellectual abstraction that doesn’t rehearse behaviours. Immersion in a virtual world in a point-scoring game involves intellectual strategising, but it’s of a very concrete sort, and gameplay models/rehearses actual behaviours that can be repeated. Apples and oranges.

    Fallout 2 sounds repellent to me, and I would probably avoid any gamer who really enjoyed it. A game based on the SCUM Manifesto I would find equally repellent , especially as I doubt that the satirical elements would translate into gameplay, and thus the whole point would be lost in a platform that would merely perpetuate the misrepresentation of Solanas’ work.

  7. Oh, c’mon, G.

    If there was a game called “DickSplitter”, and the objective was to enslave and castrate some helpless male characters – wouldn’t you feel kind of angry?

    It all boils down to this: Why didn’t you raise an outcry about Fallout 2?

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