Pressure on Japan for stronger laws on child pornography

Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:11am EDT
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By Tomasz Janowski and Teppei Kasai

TOKYO (Reuters) - When police in Japan's old historic capital of Kyoto nabbed three men this summer for buying child pornography DVDs online, they made history: for the first time, someone in the country faces the possibility of jail time for possessing such material.

Japan is the only OECD nation that has not universally outlawed possession of child pornography and activists say the new, tougher local laws in Kyoto will not change that overnight.

With various manifestations of a fascination with the young and innocent as sex objects, from graphic versions of manga, or Japanese comics, to the "junior idol" industry featuring child models in bikinis, Japan has a considerable way to go to shed an image of pornographers' safe haven.

Out of Japan's 47 provinces, only Kyoto bans possession of child pornography and prescribes a jail sentence. Neighbouring Nara is the only other province to deem it a crime, but it has only financial penalties. It has arrested several people for possession of child pornography, but authorities could not give a number since several were charged with other crimes.

In 1999, Japan outlawed production and distribution of child pornography as well as possession with the intention to pass it on, and offenders could face fines and prison terms of up to five years. However, simple possession, without an intention to distribute, remains legal, except in Kyoto and Nara.

Kyoto's new ordinance that came into force in January imposes fines for possession of child pornography and introduces a penalty of up to one year in jail for buying or downloading such material.

"It will be a big wake-up call for the parliament," says UNICEF Japan spokesman Hiromasa Nakai.

But there may not be any quick action.   Continued...

A booklet entitled, "Violence Against Children in Cyberspace", is pictured at an office of Keiji Goto, a police officer-turned lawyer in Tokyo August 10, 2012. "The average citizen is against child pornography, but I feel they don't act strongly on those beliefs. Whenever they face strong opposition, they tend to back down easily," says Goto, who in 2005 left the police force's cybercrime unit and became a lawyer, who now works with crime victims. Picture taken August 10, 2012. To match Feature JAPAN-PORNOGRAPHY/ REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao