On Wednesday, the upper house of Japan's parliament voted overwhelmingly for a bill revising laws that had previously only banned the production and distribution of child pornography. The legislation had cleared the lower house earlier this month.
Now, anyone who "possesses child pornography for the purpose of satisfying his/her sexual interest" faces imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to 1 million yen ($9,800/7,000 euros). In order to encourage disposal of material, Japan will delay the penalties for one year after the revised law comes into effect, which could happen in July.
Japan outlawed production and distribution of child pornography in 1999. The new legislation bans possession of photographs and videos depicting real children younger than 18, but excludes manga comics aimed at adults as well as children, anime video and computer-generated graphics. Artists, free-speech advocates and publishers had said that including nonphotographic works in the ban would impinge on freedom of expression and allow authorities to make arbitrary decisions about art.
In May, after the April publication of "Little Sisters Paradise! 2," the Tokyo Metropolitan Government banned sales to children of a manga depicting incestuous relationships.
'For too long'
National statistics show a rise in child pornography crimes, with police uncovering 1,644 cases last year, about 10 times higher than a decade ago. Over half of those involved sharing or selling photos or videos over the Internet, police said.
"For too long, there was a poor understanding of children's rights," Kiyohiko Toyama, a member of the New Komeito party and a proponent of the bill, told the news agency Reuters. "Ultimately, that's why it's taken so long. By outlawing the possession of child pornography with the intent to satisfy sexual interest, we make it harder for people to trade in such material."
More than 70 countries ban possession of child pornography. Japan, with its large porn industry, had proved the lone holdout from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the G7 group of industrialized nations - the last to permit possession of such images of children.
mkg/rg (Reuters, AFP, dpa)