Japan To Outlaw Possession of Child Pornography

Tom Hymes
TOKYO — Japan and Russia were the only G8 countries yet to outlaw the possession of child pornography. Soon, that dubious distinction will be Russia's alone.

Japan is poised to enact new laws banning the production, distribution, sale, possession and trade of child porn, finally bringing it in line with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, all of which have laws on the books that criminalize the possession of material made from the sexual exploitation of minors.

The move by Japan to follow the lead of the other industrialized nations is in response to increasing criticism from the world community, including the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, who reportedly will be meeting with Japan's justice minister this week to discuss the issue.

"The term 'child pornography' misrepresents the heinous nature of this crime," Schieffer wrote in a recent newspaper article. "Unlike some people in adult pornography, children are not willing or paid participants. The majority of images and videos depict the violent and brutal sexual assault of children, most of them younger than 12 years old. We are talking about child rape."

According to an article published today in The Guardian, "Japan is one of the world's biggest suppliers of child pornography and the second biggest consumer after the U.S., despite a 1999 law that banned the production, sale and distribution of images of children under 18."

Other news outlets report that 80% of child pornography found on the Internet originates from Japan.

According to David Kerr, head of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in Britain, pressure from many governments and antiporn groups helped force Japan's hand.

"We witnessed increasing volumes of child pornography coming from Japan, but although we reported cases, we couldn't get them removed [from the Internet]," Kerr said, adding that he hopes to see a steady, if slow, decline in CP online because of Japan's proposed new law.

Some child protection activists are still concerned that the law does not encompass all forms of content. For instance, Manga and other types of animation remain legal, even if they depict underage characters engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

According to The Guardian, "Sexually explicit comics account for a sizable chunk of Japan's annual $50 million Manga market. Many feature schoolgirls or childlike adults being raped or engaging in sadomasochism." The paper also states that critics of a ban of sexually-explicit animation say the characters depicted in scores of "lolicon" titles are fictional and thus cannot being harmed. "Lolicon" is Japanese slang for "Lolita complex."