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Child pornography is still widely available in Japan, a year after it was criminalised

Before the changes came into effect last year, it was the only Group of Seven nation in which the possession of sexualised images or videos of people under 18 remained legal.

A cafe and newsstand in Fukuoka, Japan.
A cafe and newsstand in Fukuoka, Japan.
Image: Shutterstock

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS have urged Japanese authorities to crack down on child pornography, which is still widely available despite a government overhaul of laws to protect children from sexual exploitation.

Japan in 2014 joined other major developed nations and criminalised the possession of child pornography following calls by campaigners who complained it was a major international source of such material.

Before the changes came into effect last year, it was the only Group of Seven nation in which the possession of sexualised images or videos of people under 18 remained legal.

Human Rights Now, a Tokyo-based campaign group, said in a report that DVDs clearly marked as child porn continue to be “openly and widely distributed, displayed and sold at stores, and released on the internet”.

Police rarely investigate pornographers who appear to hire children, claiming they cannot confirm the ages of those appearing in videos, according to the report.

Campaigners in the report condemned that stance, saying police should make the eradication of child porn a top priority.

Japan’s National Police Agency had no immediate comment on the report.

shutterstock_258886907 A news kiosk in Tokyo. Source: Shutterstock

Numerous DVDs

During a year of field research, the group found numerous DVDs – either actual or suspected child porn – at stores in Tokyo’s famous Akihabara electronics district.

The report also called on the government to pursue zero tolerance for materials that sexualise minors, including so-called “child erotica” depicting half-naked children in skimpy outfits and sexually provocative poses.

Such material, which remains in a legal grey area, is widely available online and in stores.

shutterstock_158206979 The Tokyo skyline. Source: Shutterstock

The new laws do not apply to drawings or digitally-created imagery, which means that graphic images of paedophilia in manga comic books remain legal.

Last October, UN special envoy Maud de Boer-Buquicchio criticised the legislation as riddled with “numerous loopholes” and lashed out at child erotica, saying kids were being exploited.

Under Japan’s law, anyone who “possesses child pornography for the purpose of satisfying his/her sexual interest” faces imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to one million yen (€8,667).

Those who produce child pornography can be imprisoned for up to three years or fined as much as three million yen.

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