In response to the recent announcement of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC), a United Nations proposed anti-child exploitation initiative whose text includes a broad definition of sexual abuse material which includes ‘Loli’ and ‘Shota’ style artwork, the Prostasia Foundation has created a petition to voice their displeasure with aspects of the OPSC and its goals.

The Prostasia Foundation is a non-profit foundation whose focus is the protection of children and the prevention of child sexual abuse, with a focus on evidence driven measures rather than emotional reactions:

Protecting children from sexual abuse is a cause that everyone can unite behind. Often, however, the measures we take to combat child sexual abuse (CSA) are less effective than they should be, because they are driven by emotion rather than evidence. In striving to protect children from abuse, we may end up harming them and others.

Prostasia Foundation addresses this problem by…

  • helping to fund sound scientific research on CSA prevention.
  • engaging with diverse stakeholders whose voices are not normally heard.
  • addressing the human rights impacts of child protection laws and policies.
  • communicating the results of our research and engagement to policymakers, platforms, and the  public.

This uniquely balanced, rights-respecting and evidence-based approach to CSA prevention allows us not only to protect children from abuse, but also to reduce the separate harms caused to children and others by our society’s predominantly reactive child protection agenda.

In response to the UN’s announcement of OPSC, the Foundation started a petition titled Tell the UN: Art =/= CSEM which aims to inform the UN that a focus on fictional or imaginary children is ineffective in OPSC’s goals as well as show support for freedom of expression:

A United Nations committee wants to have drawings, dolls, and writings added to the international legal definition of child pornography.

That’s not what child pornography law is for.

Child pornography is prohibited by law because it exploits the child depicted in it. Reflecting this, it is increasingly being called child sexual exploitation material (CSEM).

A drawing or written text that depicts an imaginary child exploits nobody.

Freedom of expression under international law can only be restricted by law in ways that are both necessary and proportionate to achieve a permitted purpose. Banning cartoons does not meet this test, and there is no evidence that it would help children.

Tell the United Nations that it has no business telling the world what we can draw or read, and that it should keep its focus on the prevention of harm to real children.

The Foundation provides interested parties with an automated submission box, which requires a first name, last name, e-mail address, and country of residence to be provided before a user can sign the petition. The petition itself reads:

Dear Committee,

There are few things more important than protecting children from sexual abuse. That’s why I fully support the international ban on child pornography, in the form that it exists now: a ban on images and videos of real children being abused.

I do not support the proposed extension of the definition to include drawings, cartoons, written materials, toys, or other representations of imaginary or fictional children, as proposed in the current draft Guidelines on the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

There is no evidence that representations of imaginary or fictional children results in harm to real children. Therefore, banning such representations would infringe the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Please ensure that no recommendation that state parties censor or criminalize artistic or literary representations of imaginary or fictional children is included in the final Guidelines.

As of writing, the petition currently has 2,225 signatures.

The response by the Prostasia Foundation is not the first time an advocacy group has taken issue with UN measures aimed at criminalizing specific genres of art. In 2016, the UN attempted to ban Japanese media that depicted ‘sexual violence against women’. Kumiko Yamada of the Japanese Women’s Institute of Contemporary Media issued a response calling the focus on fictional depictions of violence against women into question:

Introduction:

This year, on February 16th, 2016 the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against    Women held a “Protecting Women’s Rights in Japan” conference. We would like to share our opinion on the “Proposal to Ban the Sale of Manga and Video Games Depicting Sexual Violence.”

Opinion Summary:

We are absolutely in agreement that the protection of the rights of women in Japan is important. On the other hand, we think it should be carefully and seriously evaluated whether the measures taken to ensure those protections are valid ones or not. If we are asked to consider whether “Protecting Women’s Rights in Japan” requires us to “Ban the Sale of Manga and Video Games Depicting Sexual Violence,” then we must reply that that is an absolute “no.”

Yamada’s full translated response to the UN can be read in the original thread, provided by the original translator, reddit user RyanoftheStars.

Do you plan on signing this petition? Do you agree with the Prostasia Foundation?

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  • About The Author

    Spencer is a contributing reporter for Bounding Into Comics. Unabashed anime fan, life-long comic book reader, avid video game player, and in need of a separate house for all of his figures. Trying to sift through the noise to bring the readers the facts.

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