[…]

Anber Raz, Asia Programme Officer for Equality Now, reports on the organisation’s new campaign against sexually violent computer games produced in Japan and their promotion of sexual violence against women.

When the computer game RapeLay first came to our attention at Equality Now we couldn’t quite believe such a game existed. Players get to live out rape fantasies not just as watchers but as virtual participants. Everything that happens in RapeLay – from the child Illusion Software claims is over 18 yet is shown physically under developed and clutching a cuddly toy, to her teenage sister and mother, all of whom must be raped until they begin to “enjoy” it- is done by the player. The player controls how and where to rape each of the girls and women by controlling the rapist’s hand and penis onscreen.

We discovered vast numbers of gamers discussing and reviewing the “game” online. One reviewer said “you have the illusion of total interaction with the girl. It’s the most realistic sex simulation ever seen”. Up until recently, Amazon Japan sold copies of RapeLay together with other extreme pornography in the form of cartoons, known as hentai.

Equality Now brought RapeLay to Amazon Japan’s attention and the company has removed the game from sale. However, it continues to sell similar titles based on stalking and sexually molesting women and girls. Since launching our campaign a few weeks ago, Equality Now has received an unprecedented amount of hate mail from supporters of these games, including death and bomb threats.

I’ve been working in the field of human rights and violence against women for some time now. As anyone else working within this field will know, you hear and see horrific stories about abuses every day but this rape simulator even gave me nightmares. I couldn’t switch off from it, couldn’t talk about it without getting choked up and feeling sick to my stomach. Our interpreter could not go through with her task of translating just the text in the game – she found it too distressing. I wonder what impact such a simulator has on someone who uses this game for sexual gratification and views what they do to the onscreen women and girls as a sexual act and not one of violence?

A number of computer games involving rape, sexual harassment and stalking of women and girls have been produced in Japan. Hentai are easily accessible and their use widely accepted. Common themes include rape, gang rape, incest and the sexual abuse of schoolgirls.

For a rape charge to be successful in Japan, it is up to the victim to prove she did not consent to sexual intercourse, which means that judges look for evidence of resistance put up by the victim. The myth that if a rape victim does not fight back she “wanted” to be raped is encouraged by RapeLay and its ilk.

In 2003, a number of male students at the Waseda University in Tokyo were found to be running a “rape club”. The group would hire out a club and invite female students to a big party. They would then pick out 100 girls who were invited to a special dinner where they would be plied with alcohol. Some of the women would then be taken individually and gang raped by club members. Rapes were also filmed and sold as a way to make money for the club.

When the Waseda University story broke, a weekly magazine said Yasuo Fukuda, the Japanese government’s former Cabinet chief spokesman, who later became Prime Minister before resigning after one year, told reporters at an off-the-record briefing that women were partly to blame in the case of gang rape. “The problem is that there are lots of women dressed provocatively,” he was quoted as saying. Fukuda, who was at the time also the minister of gender equality, said his comment was taken out of context.

Equality Now is demanding that Illusion Software and Amazon Japan withdraw from sale all games which involve rape, stalking or other forms of violence against women. It is also calling on the Japanese government to ban the sale of games which normalise and promote sexual violence against women and girls and to take active steps to address sex discrimination and the objectification of women and girls. As members of society, corporations have a responsibility not to promote violence against women and girls. Let’s put an end to these games now!