Japan: Rape simulator games and the normalization of sexual violence

Printer-friendly version
Action Number: 
33.2
IMPORTANT: This archived action campaign has been completed or discontinued, and the information contained in it may not be current. Please see Take Action for current and ongoing campaigns.
Date: 
1 Sep 2009
Update: 

Following Equality Now's campaign the Japan Ethics Organisation of Computer Software (EOCS), whose members consist of 90% of the Japanese adult content computer game producers, banned the production and sale of games such as RapeLay and other games which simulate sexual violence. Although its regulations do not apply to non-EOCS producers, partners have informed us that owners of the majority of retail stores selling these games have stated they do not sell games by non-EOCS producers.

In addition, The Komei Party which was a member of the Japanese coalition government at the time, held a committee meeting on the issue of rape simulation games and created the Committee Working Towards a Child Safe World and Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Law Revision Committee, in response.

Our partners have stated that, "if a group based in Japan had initiated this campaign, a similar response from the Japanese government and the media would have been unlikely."


“Women are stupid creatures who don’t know how to do anything other than cook us dinner. This just proves their stupidity; they need to realize that the word ‘equality’ was a word created by men for men, and was never meant to be used by, referred to, or given to women.” (Online game blogger responding to Equality Now’s Women’s Action against rape simulator games in Japan)

"By the way I played RapeLay (doing the 13 year old was best).” (Email to Equality Now)

“The only way to defeat women’s rights and make things to the advantage of Men again is to brutally, publically, murder women’s rights activists en masse. Don’t you want young females of child bearing age as your wives (females gain the ability to have children at age 12, 13, or 14 commonly)? Yes you do. Don’t you want her to obey you? Yes you do. Don’t you want her to be nice to you? Yes you do (whatever “nice” means… probably quiet suffices). The only way you have a shot at getting any of that is if all feminists and those who support them are dead or ineffectual (dead really helps here as well).” (U.S. online gamer railing against Equality Now’s Women’s Action)

In May 2009 Equality Now launched a Women’s Action on rape simulator games produced and sold in Japan. The Action highlighted the game RapeLay which was produced by Illusion Software and sold on Amazon Japan. RapeLay shows a schoolgirl around 12 years old travelling on a commuter train. A man who has been following her gropes and sexually molests her. Eventually the train stops and she runs frightened into a public toilet, followed by her assailant who handcuffs and rapes her. The assailant takes her prisoner and repeatedly rapes her in various locations. Her mother and teenaged sister suffer the same fate. This family is targeted for rape as punishment because the older sister had previously reported to the police the attempted sexual assault of another woman by the rapist. The aim of the RapeLay game is for the player repeatedly to rape the mother and her daughters until they begin to “enjoy” the experience.

Japan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985 and was last examined by the CEDAW Committee, which reviews government compliance with CEDAW, on 24 July 2009. The CEDAW Committee expressed concern at the “normalization of sexual violence in [Japan] as reflected by the prevalence of pornographic video games and cartoons featuring rape, gang rape, stalking and sexual molestation of women and girls.” The Committee also stated that it was concerned about the stereotypical depictions of women in the media and that, “the over-sexualized depiction of women strengthens the existing stereotypes of women as sex objects and continues to generate girls’ low self-esteem.” In its concluding observations the CEDAW Committee strongly urged the Japanese government to “ban the sale of video games or cartoons involving rape and sexual violence against women which normalize and promote sexual violence against women and girls.” The new Japanese government, elected in August 2009, has the opportunity and responsibility actively to address the concerns expressed by the CEDAW Committee by banning all media which promote violence against women and girls.

Since Equality Now issued its original Action, Japan’s Ethics Organization of Computer Software (EOCS), the industry’s self regulatory body whose job it is to rate computer software, has reportedly banned its members from producing games containing certain forms of violence against women. EOCS is a voluntary organization with a large but not universal membership. It is not yet clear what aspects of violence against women its rules will address and to what extent they will be applied. However, online gaming magazines suggest that due to the international attention, game makers in Japan are merely changing titles and pictures on game covers to make them appear innocuous and/or preventing anyone from outside Japan from accessing their websites, but are not addressing the actual content of these games. The Japanese government must take decisive steps to ban outright games that promote violence against women and girls and to address the objectification of women and promotion of violence against women in various media including in pornography.

Amazon Japan and Illusion Software have now withdrawn RapeLay from sale, however both continue to sell similar extreme pornography games in the form of cartoons known as hentai which include women and girls being raped, gang raped, stalked, molested, sexually assaulted and groped. In a furious backlash against moves to restrict the normalization of sexual violence against women and girls, Equality Now has been targeted through online blogs and emails with hundreds of abusive and sometimes threatening communications, including seemingly credible videos of real girls actually being gang raped. The videos were passed on to the Japanese police who initially refused to investigate, stating that, based on the officers’ analysis of the shape of the girls’ pubic hair, the girls were over eighteen, therefore the tapes were not considered child pornography. Only after Equality Now impressed upon the police that actual (and not enacted) gang rape videos are in fact sold on the open market in Japan, did they finally agree to re-examine the tapes, but it remains unclear what, if any, action has been taken including to trace the sender of the videos. The failure by the police even to contemplate that a serious crime might have taken place remains a deep concern.

The hostile responses provoked by Equality Now’s advocacy against extreme pornography, including the examples above, underscore the urgent need to address all instances of discrimination against women and girls, including the promotion of sexual violence. Article 5 (a) of CEDAW, which obligates States Parties to “modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women” is just one of many clear international standards adopted by the international community. In the same way that it would be unacceptable to promote violence against religious or ethnic groups, so it is unacceptable to promote violence and discrimination against women.

In addition to Japan’s obligations under CEDAW, Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution guarantees equality under the law and states that there shall be no “discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.” Computer games such as RapeLay and real rape “pornography” videos condone and promote gender stereotypes and gender-based discriminatory attitudes. As the CEDAW Committee has noted, these, in turn, contribute to gender-based violence.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Japanese government officials below, calling on them to comply with Japan’s obligations under CEDAW, including the recent strong exhortation of the CEDAW Committee to ban games and cartoons that normalize and promote sexual violence against women and girls. In your letter to the Minister of Justice ask her also to inquire about the requested investigation into the apparent gang rape video sent by Equality Now to the Tokyo police department, and ask that her office investigates this and other actual rape videos to ensure that all those involved are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Please also continue to write to Illusion Software asking it to withdraw immediately from sale all games which involve rape, stalking or other forms of sexual violence or which otherwise denigrate women. Suggest that corporations have a responsibility to consider, as good business practice, any negative impact their activities may have on society and the public interest. Please write a similar letter to Amazon Japan.

Mr. Tadashi Yoshimura
Managing Director
Illusion Software
1-10-1 Nishikanagawa Kanagawa-ku
Yokohama-city, Kanagawa 221-0822, Japan
Tel: (+81) (0)4-5322-1551
Email: illuon@illuon.jp, info@illuon.jp

Sample letter to Illusion Software

Mr. Jasper Cheung
President of Amazon Japan K.K
2-15-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-000-2, Japan
Email: via website

Sample letter to Amazon Japan

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
2-3-1 Nagata-Cho, Chiyoda-ku,
Tokyo 100-0014, Japan
Tel: (+81)(0)3-3581-0101
Fax: (+81)(0)3-3581-3883
Email: via website

Sample letter to the Prime Minister

Ms. Keiko Chiba
Minster of Justice
1-1-1 Kasumigaseki,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8977, Japan
Tel: (+81)(0)3-3580-4111
Fax: (+81)(0)3-3592-7393
Email: webmaster@moj.go.jp

Sample letter to the Minister of Justice

Women's Action 33.1: May 2009