Japan has made the possession of child pornography a criminal offense.
In a bill passed on Wednesday, people found with pornographic images of children will face a year in jail or a fine of up to $10,000. Activists have long argued that Japan’s lax laws put children at risk by creating a ready market for explicit images of children since possession was not illegal.
“It’s been 10 years and it’s finally changed. I’m so pleased that Japan finally moved one step toward the international standard,” said Shihoko Fujiwara, from Lighthouse, a nonprofit group that helps exploited children.
“Under the existing circumstances, the suffering and damage has become more critical. I really hope that the law rescues suffering child victims, as well as the victims damaged in the past by stopping the circulation of child porn. This is the epoch-making event for Japan,” she said.
However animated images of children have not been banned. The animation industry argues that censoring their products would be an unjustified restriction of freedom of expression.
Daisuke Okeda, a lawyer and inspector for the Japan Animation Creators Association, said it was “natural that animation is exempted.”
“The goal of the law itself is to protect children from crime,” he said. “Banning such expression in animation under this law would not satisfy the goal of the law.”
Child pornography remains a big problem in Japan. In 2013 a report by the US State Department labelled Japan “an international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography.” People in possession of child pornography have one year to dispose of it before they risk prosecution.
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