Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography

By Rebecca Whisnant; Christine Stark | Go to book overview

Seiya Morita

(for the Anti-Pornography-&-Prostitution Research Group)


Pornography, prostitution, and
women's human rights in Japan

The last ten years in the 20th century, from the viewpoint of female human rights and sex equality, were paradoxical for Japan. Although Japan is very backward in the field of sex equality, at last a series of basic laws protecting the human rights of women came into being, the plaintiff women in sexual harassment trials gained victories one after another, and the social perception of violence against women progressed little by little. However, during the same period, sex work theory has spread, and the argument has swept over the media that nothing is wrong with pornography or prostitution because consent has been given by the persons concerned. Pornography and prostitution became more epidemic in Japan during the 1990s, and serious crimes associated with them took place more frequently.


Progress

Social consciousness about sexual harassment and domestic violence progressed rapidly in the 1990s. Sexual harassment became recognized as a problem in Japan only in the second half of the 1980s, more than 10 years behind the United States. A women's group played a major role in introducing and spreading the concept of sexual harassment in Japanese women's movements when it translated and published a US guidebook about sexual harassment in 1988. This group then carried out a questionnaire targeting 10,000 women to make clear the actual prevalence of sexual harassment in Japan. In 1991 this group published the results as a book, which clearly showed the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in Japan.

But in the beginning of the 1990s, most Japanese people still assumed that sexual harassment involved only love affairs in the workplace. However, such recognition changed significantly in the 1990s, due to the serious and steady efforts of the female researchers, lawyers and activists, and due to the struggles of the courageous women who took legal action against sexual harassment in the workplace. An important breakthrough occurred when two female victims who suffered sexual harassment brought suits in Fukuoka and Numazu at the end of the 1980s. The cases became the first full-fledged

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