Japan bans possession of child pornography

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Japan banned possession of child pornography though a bill passed in the Upper House of Japanese Parliament yesterday. The ban prohibits owning a real life image of child pornography depicting a child under the age of eighteen. However, this does not include depictions of children in computer-generated or drawn forms, such as anime and manga.

Japan banned child pornography production and distribution fifteen years ago, however possession had remained legal until now.

Possession of child pornography under these new laws may involve financial penalty of up to one million yen (about US$10,000 or euro7,000) or a year in jail. Individuals who currently possess child pornography are to be given a year to dispose of the material as the penalties are to be unenforced for the first year the law is in effect.

Bill supporter Kiyohiko Toyama of the New Komeito Party, speaking to Reuters, said "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."

While sexual images depicting real-life children have been banned, depictions in anime and manga have not. Last month the metropolitan government of Tokyo did restrict manga comics depicting incest by prohibiting their sale to children.

Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said on Tuesday, "We must fight against a tendency of looking at children as sexual objects, and allowing them to be taken advantage of, sexually and commercially".

Some manga artists, publishers, and free-speech activists have objected to the censure of manga content, saying it encroaches on the right to free speech. Some objectors cite Japanese government press controls during the lead-up to World War II.