Porn industry preys on young women: activists

Pornography is widely available in Japan, where some actresses become well known enough to appear on mainstream TV chat shows.

Thursday March 3 2016

Japanese activists and lawyers, (L-R) lawyer and the head of Human Rights Now Kazuko Ito, lawyer Hiroko Goto, activist Shihoko Fujiwara, activist Setsuko  Miyamoto, and lawyer Yukiko Tsunoda, hold a press conference in Tokyo on March 3, 2016. Japanese women are being exploited and abused in Japan's multi-billion dollar pornographic film industry, rights advocates said, calling on authorities to strengthen laws to protect them. PHOTO | AFP

Japanese activists and lawyers, (L-R) lawyer and the head of Human Rights Now Kazuko Ito, lawyer Hiroko Goto, activist Shihoko Fujiwara, activist Setsuko Miyamoto, and lawyer Yukiko Tsunoda, hold a press conference in Tokyo on March 3, 2016. Japanese women are being exploited and abused in Japan's multi-billion dollar pornographic film industry, rights advocates said, calling on authorities to strengthen laws to protect them. PHOTO | AFP  

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TOKYO

Japanese women are being exploited and abused in Japan's multi-billion dollar pornographic film industry, rights advocates said on Thursday, calling on authorities to strengthen laws to protect them.

Pornography is widely available in Japan, where some actresses become well known enough to appear on mainstream TV chat shows or as commentators in weekly magazines.

But the dark side of the industry is seldom discussed openly and the rights of those who work in it even less so.

In an attempt to shine a light on abusive aspects of the business, a coalition of campaigners and attorneys held a press conference to announce findings of research conducted over a six-month period last year.

More than 130 cases in the past four years have come to their attention in which mostly young women sought help after claiming sexual abuse.

The mistreatment included being forced to engage in repeated intercourse without protection and even being gang-raped during filming.

The majority of the cases have their roots in coercive or fraudulent signing of contracts — sometimes targeting minors.

LUCRATIVE INDUSTRY

Initially, women are casually approached on the street by brokers who pretend to be scouting models, the advocates said.

When victims realise the con and try to break the contracts they are threatened with lawsuits and so give in.

But in one case last year that was actually adjudicated, the Tokyo District Court threw out a claim against a woman by makers of a pornographic film.

"These women are forced to perform in such sexually abusive movies against their will," Yukiko Tsunoda, one of the lawyers, said at the press conference.

The group of activists and lawyers said they have been alarmed by an increasing number of young women, mostly in their early 20s — and even young men and boys — who seek their help.

At least one young women later killed herself by hanging, they said, her ordeal beginning when she was put in a small room surrounded by a number of men and forced to sign a contract.

"It seems to be widely assumed that these women agree to appear in porn movies," said Hiroko Goto, a professor of law at Chiba University.

"But they are sometimes minors and often young women in their 20s who are not yet socially empowered," she said.

"They are being preyed upon by those with power and money."

The advocates said they are pushing the government to increase oversight of the industry as well as to close legal loopholes that allow such exploitation to occur.

Japan's porn industry is worth up to 500 billion yen ($4.4 billion) annually and creates about 20,000 films, the advocates said.

The industry is "very lucrative," Tsunoda said, adding that "there are many people who buy films showing such cruel sexual abuse as entertainment."

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