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VICE News

Japan Finally Bans Possession of Child Porn

Though the creation and distribution of child porn was made illegal in 1999, Japan is one of the last developed countries to ban possession.

by Jordan Larson
Jun 18 2014, 6:15pm

Photo via Hansol

Japan has finally banned the possession of child pornography, 15 years after it criminalized the creation and distribution of such materials.

However, the law, which was approved by parliament today, does not apply to animation or computer graphics — so anime and manga will be untouched.

Offenders could be sentenced to up to one year in prison, or pay a fine of up to 1 million yen ($9,800). Though the law goes into effect next month, there will be a one year grace period for disposing of such materials.

Japan has been met with great international pressure to take the next step in eliminating child porn, and is the last of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 34 member states to ban possession, Reuters reported.

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"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 center-right 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."

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Opponents to the law have cited concerns about government censorship and freedom of speech. It was because of this issue, and the lobbying of magazine and book publishers, that animated materials are not covered under the law.

"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, said in a statement on its website.

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By comparison, the United States passed its first law prohibiting manufacture, distribution, and possession of child pornography in 1977, and such materials — simulated or not — are not protected under the First Amendment, even when they aren't considered legally obscene.

Child pornography crimes have been on the rise, with 1,644 cases in 2013, 10 times more than in 1993, according to the BBC. Of those, over half entailed selling or sharing materials online.

Follow Jordan Larson on Twitter: @jalarsonist

Photo via Flickr