The United Nations proposed a new international initiative, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, that aims at combating child exploitation.

As One Angry Gamer notes most of the initiative is aimed at “way to prevent human trafficking, curbing the solicitation of child prostitution, and reducing the spread of child pornography and underage exploitation.”

As most would see it, the protocol’s efforts appear to be a noble effort to combat child sex trafficking and online exploitation. But there could be some stark unintended consequences.

However, hidden in the document on page 14 section 56, the U.N. details a broadly defined definition of child pornography that seems to include popular Japanese entertainment industries including anime and manga that routinely feature loli and shota as well as fictional underage characters.

The section reads:

Child pornography is defined in article 2 OPSC as ‘any representation of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities, regardless of the means used, or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes’. The qualification ‘by whatever means’ reflects the broad range of material available in a variety of media, online and offline. It includes, inter alia: visual material such as photographs, movies, drawings and cartoons; audio representations; any digital media representation; live performances; written materials in print or online; and physical objects such as sculptures, toys, or ornaments.1

The Committee urges States parties to prohibit, by law, child sexual abuse material in any form. The Committee notes that such material is increasingly circulating online, and strongly recommends States parties to ensure that relevant provisions of their Criminal Codes cover all forms of material, including when the acts listed in article 3.1(c) are committed online and including when such material represents realistic representations of non-existing children.

As you can see, in the middle of the section above it clearly states that drawings and cartoons would be restricted under this protocol.

But what does this all mean exactly? And why are cartoons and drawings included in this possible protocol?

Well according to the United Nations, these types of drawings and cartoons “contribute to normalising the sexualization of children” and “fuels the demand of child sexual abuse material.”

You can see the entire comment below:

“The Committee is of the view that “simulated explicit sexual activities” should be interpreted as including any material, online or offline, that depicts or otherwise represents any person appearing to be a child engaged in real or simulated sexually explicit conduct and realistic and/or virtual depictions of a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Such depictions contribute to normalising the sexualisation of children and fuels the demand of child sexual abuse material.

Moreover, for the reasons explained in paragraph 63, any representation of the sexual parts of a child, including realistic images of the sexual organs of a child, for primarily sexual purposes falls under the definition of this offence. Where it may be complicated to establish with certainty if a representation is intended or used for “primarily sexual purposes”, the Committee deems it necessary to consider the context in which it is being used.”

Now here is the kicker. The committee also said that the only way you can get around this protocol is through viewing the “context” of what the content is being used for. So, in short, that means any video game, novel, manga, or movies that feature lolis or shotas will have to be viewed through the committees’ own lens to determine if it is, in fact, to be restricted.

Now some might see these pieces of art questionable. I completely understand why.

But lolis and shotas aren’t anything new, especially in novels. It’s more than likely these depictions would be viewed in a negative light in this protocol. Not only would anime and manga fall under this initiative, but books such as Stephen King’s It, and Lolita each use depictions of children in ways that a protocol such as this could view as restricted. It’s possible popular cartoons like the Powerpuff Girls could also fall under this new initiative.

Another issue with the proposed protocol is its enforcement mechanism. It provides a great deal of leeway for possible abuse by governments that have a poor record of protecting freedom of speech and expression rights within their own jurisdictions:

“As a minimum, States parties must establish criminal jurisdiction over all offences mentioned in article 3, para. 1, as explained under the section on Prohibition, when they are committed in their territory, including on board of a ship or aircraft registered in their countries, regardless of the location of said ship or aircraft. This allows the State to investigate and prosecute all these offences regardless whether the alleged perpetrator or the victim is a national of that State. If necessary, the State can issue an international warrant for the arrest of the alleged perpetrator. The Committee urges States parties to adopt legislation to comply with this obligation if this is not already the case.”

Needless to say, fans of anime and manga were not enthused about the new proposed initiative.

You can read the entire proposal here for yourself. But what looks to be a noble effort to protect children from predators seems to be more of a power grab for international actors who are spending time on drawings and cartoons instead of people who participate in sex tourism and production.

Currently, the protocol is under review and open to public comment. You can submit your concerns, comments and a letter to [email protected] Keep in mind you have to keep your comments to the point and no more than five pages in length. You can write it in English, Spanish, or French. And you have until March 31st of this year to submit your comments and concerns to the committee.

What are your thoughts on what the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is doing? The desire to protect children is a noble one, but could we see a tighter international grab on speech and art? And would this help victims? Or is this just a power grab from out of touch people?

Let me know your thoughts below!

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