* Japan votes to ban possession of child pornography
* Pornographic manga featuring children not included in ban
* Publishers oppose move, say freedom of speech at risk
By Ritsuko Ando
TOKYO, June 18 Japan's parliament voted on
Wednesday to outlaw possession of child pornography after years
of international calls for a crackdown, but avoided a clampdown
on sexually explicit manga comics and animation depicting young
Japan is the last OECD nation to criminalise possession of
child pornography, although it outlawed production and
distribution in 1999, and has long been considered a safe haven
for those buying child pornography.
"For too long, there was a poor understanding of children's
rights. Ultimately, that's why it's taken so long," Kiyohiko
Toyama, a member of the New Komeito party and a proponent of the
bill, told Reuters.
"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."
The new law, however, excluded an original clause calling
for a study onto the effects of such pornographic manga
involving young children, after publishers and opposition
lawmakers said it could lead to curbing free speech.
Masatada Tsuchiya, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker,
supported the bill but said he was disappointed.
"I believed we should go a step further and take a look at
manga and animation in which children are sexually abused," he
said, recalling a case in which a child murder suspect was found
to own dozens of explicit manga depicting children.
"Of course freedom of expression is important. And I love
manga. But some of the things out there are so depraved they
aren't worth defending," he said.
National data show a rise in child pornography crimes, with
police uncovering 1,644 cases last year, around 10 times higher
than a decade ago. Over half of the cases involved sharing or
selling photos or videos over the Internet, police said.
Lawmakers said the new legislation would likely help police
crack down on child pornography as buyers can be held and
questioned, possibly leading them to other collectors as well as
distributors and manufacturers.
The law is due to take effect next month. Those found guilty
under the new law will face imprisonment of up to a year or a
fine of up to 1 million yen ($9,800), although such punishment
will not be enforced in the first year.
Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said he hoped it would
also help change a culture of tolerating objectification of
"We must fight against a tendency of looking at children as
sexual objects, and allowing them to be taken advantage of,
sexually and commercially," he said in parliamentary testimony
on Tuesday, a day before the Upper House officially voted to
adopt the bill. The Lower House passed it earlier in June.
Japan's fascination with young women as sexual objects is
apparent from a quick glance through Japanese bookstores and
subway ads featuring "junior idols" as child models are known.
The new law would not apply to most such images.
More explicit and often violent content is available online.
A small portion of Japan's manga and animation market includes
graphic, sexual depictions of children including stories of
Even without the clause on manga, however, publishers said
they were still against the revised law. Some opposition
lawmakers also voted against it, saying it could lead to police
"This could lead to a regression in freedom of expression
and put a strain on artists and the publishing culture. This
cannot be accepted," the Japan Magazine Publishers Association,
representing over 90 publishing companies, said in a statement
on its website.
($1 = 102.0500 Japanese Yen)
(Editing by Elaine Lies and Michael Perry)