GENEVA/TOKYO (28 October 2015) – Ending a seven-day visit to Japan*, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, welcomed the recent legal reform on child pornography and prostitution, but urged the Government to step up its efforts to combat child sexual exploitation.
“A comprehensive strategy to prevent and eliminate the sexual exploitation and sale of children is urgently needed,” she said. The Japanese authorities should ensure that there are sufficient resources to implement such a strategy and that it complements existing related strategies such as the National Plan of Action to Prevent and Eradicate Human Trafficking, she added.
Training all professionals dealing with child victims and ensuring that they fully incorporate a child rights perspective in their decision making should be a key component of such a strategy. “Child victims are still too often treated as criminals,” said Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio.
“Children should be able to participate and be systematically consulted in all the decisions affecting them,” she added, stressing that children’s right to be heard is enshrined in international law. This applies in particular to legal proceedings as well as to the provision of care, recovery and reintegration services.
The Special Rapporteur noted that she was pleased with a number of good practices observed during her visit. “Thanks to effective cyber patrols, the availability of child abuse material online has been reduced,” she noted. She also said that she was particularly impressed by private sector-led initiatives to delete such criminal content, but stressed that the Government could also do more in this regard.
The human rights expert also called for further discussions and research on the subject of manga depicting extreme child pornography and the banalization of child sexual abuse and exploitation. “This sub-genre of manga should be banned and there should be no tolerance, whatsoever, for such acts,” said Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio. Even though the expert acknowledged the challenge of finding the right balance between freedom of expression and child protection, she concluded that material which depicts children as sexual objects and is created for the purpose of fulfilling sexual gratification must be considered as child pornography.
In addition, the Independent Expert expressed concerns about the low conviction rate and limited sentences given to perpetrators of sexual exploitation of children. “Law enforcement forces are insufficiently proactive when investigating child sexual exploitation and, when convicted, perpetrators often receive suspended sentences or low penalties such as fines,” said Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio. “To reduce social tolerance for these criminal activities, there needs to be a full stop to impunity,” added Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio.
Noting that Japan will be at the centre of the world’s attention with preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Special Rapporteur expressed hope that the Government would seize this opportunity to demonstrate its continued dedication to eradicating the sexual exploitation of children.
During her visit to Japan, from 19 to 26 October, the human rights expert met with representatives of various Ministries and the Cabinet Office, members of the Diet, the judiciary, law enforcement officials, the Ombudsperson for children of the Kawanishi prefecture, representatives of Information and Communication Technology Companies, representatives of the travel industry, representatives of UNICEF, child rights advocates, academic researchers, non-governmental organizations as well as youth.
A final report on the visit will be presented by the Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council in 2016.
(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement:
Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in May 2014. As a Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organisation and serves in her individual capacity. To learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Children/Pages/ChildrenIndex.aspx
The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, Country Page – Japan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/JPIndex.aspx
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