11/21/2009

You See Hentai, You Say Porn


Magical Girl Pretty Sammy by AIC. Google her, or anyone, with the filters off

Human Rights and Catholic groups, EU representatives, and government agencies, have praised the signing of the Republic Act 9775, also known as the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009. Tarlac Rep. Monica Teodoro, one of the co-authors of the bill is quoted to have said:
The passage of this landmark bill is very timely since we are going to commemorate the 20th year of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on Nov. 20...

Now that we already have a stringent law against child pornography, we can efficiently prosecute perpetrators who produce, use and distribute child pornography,
The bill seems to have widespread support, or at least no particularly strong opposition, from the local press so far:
This is one law that while long overdue, is still welcome. If properly enforced then it would be integral in cleaning up our country's reputation for being a place where pedophiles, local and foreign alike, can roam free, victimize children, and get away with almost anything. However, like most well meaning laws in this country, there is always the distinct possibility that it will die a natural death due to lack of interest by law enforcement officials and agencies. The legislative department has done its part. It is now up to the law enforcement agencies and the local governments to do their part and protect our children from the worst kind of predators in this planet.
Or this editorial by Fr Shay Cullen:
There is no total and absolute right over anything or anybody in the world. If the freedom of action of some is harming and allowing the abuse of others, especially children, then action must be taken to protect the vulnerable and the victimized. One right must not be used to violate another right. Besides we all have a moral responsibility to protect children and bring violators to justice. Industry has a social responsibility to make their services child safe just like any other product. They must put children before profits.

Fans of anime and manga who have heard the news, have reacted rather negatively because the law's authors supposably targeted hentai. According to ANN the bill's authors described hentai as Japanese pornographic cartoon that depicts children in explicit sexual activity. The source the site seems to be referencing is here. Teodoro's views are paraphased:
She explained that the said images of real and indistinguishable children in films, digital images or computer images, whether made or produced electronically or mechanically; drawings, cartoons, sculptures or paintings depicting children in an explicit sexual activity are just some of the visual depictions considered as child pornography materials.

The news has rippled throughout the fan community and raised the usual knee-jerk denunciations over government censorship. Sankaku Complex notices a larger trend of crackdowns in other countries:
The theatre of moralism seems a popular political pastime of late. Loli bans have been proposed in Japan, and passed in the US, UK and Australia. Perhaps such histrionics prove a useful distraction from poor economic stewardship...

The proposed bill itself obviously didn't single-out hentai or anime or manga. An earlier version of the bill can be downloaded here (Link by Gerry Alanguilan). I don't know how close this document is to the final version that was passed, and I can't find a copy of the signed law at the moment. So take it as you will. But here's the portion that's most relevant to artists:
(b) "Pornographic or pornography" refers to objects or subjects of film, television shows, photography, illustrations, music, games, paintings, drawings, illustrations, advertisements, writings, literature or narratives, contained in any format, whether audio or visual, still or moving pictures, in all forms of film, print, electronic, outdoor or broadcast mass media, or whatever future technologies to be developed, which are calculated to excite, stimulate or arouse impure thoughts and prurient interest, regardless of the motive of the author thereof.
(c) "Mass media" refers to film, print, broadcast, electronic and outdoor media including, but not limited to, internet, newspapers, tabloids, magazines, newsletters, books, comic books, billboards, calendars, posters, optical discs, magnetic media, future technologies, and the like.
(d) "Materials" refers to all movies, films, television shows, photographs, music, games, paintings, drawings, illustrations, advertisements, writings, literature or narratives, whether produced in the Philippines or abroad.
(e) "Sex" refers to the area of human behavior concerning sexual activity, sexual desires and instinct, and their expressions.
(f) "Sexual act" refers to having sex or the act of satisfying one's sexual instinct.

I'm not a legal expert, but the writing in this version strikes me as a very very broad and inclusive view of criminal pornographic material. Too broad. And the phrase "impure thoughts" bears the marks of moralistic Catholic preaching at work. The bill was also a general anti-smut proposal, unlike the later version which gained traction for being anti-child pornography.

The excerpt quoted by the press coverage:
...any representation, whether visual, audio, or written combination thereof, by electronic, mechanical, digital, optical, magnetic or any other means, or a child engaged or involved in real or simulated explicit sexual activities

Does the child in question have to be real, or can the person be completely simulated like a cartoon drawing or CGI?

I managed to find a copy of the law online. This answers my questions of what constitutes a child. The law's coverage is still very very broad:
For the purpose of this Act, a child shall also refer to:

(1) a person regardless of age who is presented, depicted or believed to be a child as defined herein; and
(2) a computer-generated, digitally or manually crafted images or graphics of a person who is represented or who is made to appear to be a child as defined herein.

(b) “Child pornography” refers to any public or private representation, by whatever means, of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes.
(c) “Child pornography materials” refers to the means and methods by which child pornography is carried out:

(1) As to form:

(i) Visual depiction – which includes not only images of real children but also digital image, computer image or computer-generated image that is indistinguishable from that of real children engaging in an explicit sexual activity. Visual depiction shall include:

(aa) undeveloped film and videotapes;
(bb) data and/or images stored on a computer disk or by electronic means capable of conversion into a visual image;
(cc) photograph, film, video, picture, digital image or picture, computer image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical or other means;
(dd) drawings, cartoons, sculptures or paintings depicting children; or
(ee) other analogous visual depiction...

(emphasis mine)

Take time to read the entire document. It's not lengthy.

The law also imposes heavy penalties on the exhibition, sale, and distribution of this material. What's particularly draconian is how it leans heavily on digital media: from internet cafes to ISPs to the content hosts to eliminate all child pornography. To quote a small part of the law:
SEC. 6. Duties of an Internet Content Host. – An Internet content host shall:

(a) Not host any child pornography on its Internet address;
(b) Within seven (7) days, report the presence of child pornography, as well as the particulars of the person maintaining, hosting, distributing or in any manner contributing to such Internet address, to the proper authorities; and
(c) Preserve such evidence for purposes of investigation and prosecution by relevant authorities.

An Internet content host shall, upon the request of proper authorities, furnish the particulars of users who gained or attempted to gain access to an Internet address that contains child pornography materials.

And just how are they going to police this?

To be honest, I'm not surprised by the mainstream response in the Philippines. No one wants to make light of the issue of enacting protections for the rights of children from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Local politicians have a history of grandstanding when it comes to protecting the morals of its citizens, making it difficult to discern their motives. During the Martial Law years, President briefly attacked mecha anime for being a corrupting influence on children. Of course, that's a very different situation from minors being forced into child pornography, which this law is clearly intended to fight against. Still the law did IMHO err so strongly on the side of protecting children that it's frustrating that there wasn't more balanced critical analysis on how this could affect freedom of expression and its enforceability.