Japan Close to Banning Possession of Child Pornography

Rhett Pardon

TOKYO — A proposal to ban the possession of child pornography in Japan cleared a key judicial panel on Wednesday.

Under Japan’s current laws, only the production and distribution of child pornography are banned.

The new piece of legislation moves on to Japan's main legislative chamber and is expected to be quickly passed. From there it would be sent to the upper house before the current Parliament session ends on June 22.

Japan would be the last major developed country to ban paedophilia, online and off. But the bill includes an exemption.

The law would ban possession of photographs and videos depicting real children, but would exclude manga comics and anime video out of free-speech concerns.

The proposal includes language that reads “possession of child pornography for the purpose of satisfying his/her sexual interest” will be punished with imprisonment of up to one year, or fines of up to 1 million yen, or $9,800.

In order to encourage disposal of child porn, the penalties would be delayed for one year after the revised law comes into force.

Hiromasa Nakai, a public relations official with the Japan Committee for UNICEF, hailed the development, according to the Japan Times.

“Opinions have been divided over the possession since the law was established 15 years ago,” he said. “Japan is finally approaching international standards since it is the only nation in the Group of Seven that does not outlaw the possession of child pornography.”

Hideki Takanuma, a member of a panel on editing ethics with the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, said his group had mixed emotions to the proposed law.

“We welcome that manga and anime will not be targeted for the possession of child pornography,” he said. “But banning the possession while the definition of child pornography is still ambiguous is highly dangerous.”

Tim Henning of the ASACP told XBIZ that, if ultimately passed, the piece of legislation would be a major victory for global child protection efforts.

"ASACP applaudes Japan's decision to finally criminalize the possession of sexually explicit images involving children," he said. "Images that do not depict real children, virtual child pornography, is a much more contentious issue as some believe there is no actual victim who has been harmed.

"While some countries outlaw these images many have not criminalized them or have a more complicated history of switched positions between criminalization and de-criminalization as is the case with the U.S. where it is currently legal as long as the virtual image is not a representation of an actual child."