Japan Finally Bans Possession of Child Pornography, with Some Caveats

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Japan announced today that it will finally make possession of child pornography illegal — but won't bar illustrated manga comics from portraying children in a sexually explicit manner.

The international community has pressured Japan to revise its child pornography regulations for years. The country passed a law in 1999 criminalizing the production and sale of child pornography, but not possession of the final product. The new legislation was proposed last year as an amendment to the 1999 law, and is expected to take effect next month. Those who have child pornography will have a year to get rid of their collections. 

Kiyohiko Toyama, a Japanese official who supported the bill, told Reuters that "for too long, there was a poor understanding of children's rights. 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." 

However, the exemption for the popular comics is seen as a nod to the influence wielded by the powerful industry. CNN reports

Representatives of those industries say that while they support the ban on real child pornography, any move to censor 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."

But the New York Times adds that some non-animated youths could also still be photographed in compromising situations: 

The new law will also leave untouched gray areas such as the popular genre of “junior idols,” often 12- and 13-year-old girls who are photographed in sexually suggestive poses while scantily clad. Many of the idol bands in Japanese pop music also walk a fine line, with their high school- and even junior high school-age members appearing in magazines and on billboards wearing just lingerie or bikinis.

After the year's grace period, violators of the law will face up to a year in prison and nearly $10,000 in fines. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.