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Metro Tokyo gov't to penalize solicitation of selfies from children under 18

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly voted unanimously on Dec. 15 to revise an ordinance to penalize the act of asking children younger than 18 to send "selfie" images.

    The purpose of the revision, which will come into effect on Feb. 1, 2018, is to prevent suffering caused by the online release of photos, including nudes, acquired by email from children through means such as intimidation or trickery. The ordinance will be Japan's first with a punitive clause concerning "selfie" requests.

    Under the revised version of the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, a fine of up to 300,000 yen (about $2,664) will be imposed if unreasonable methods such as intimidation, promises of payment, or pretending to be of the same gender, are used to get a child under 18 to send selfies including those of a pornographic nature.

    The Law for Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography forbids the production and supply of indecent images of children younger than 18. However, the law does not include any stipulations concerning requests to supply such images.

    One of the factors behind the Dec. 15 vote to amend the ordinance was that selfie-related suffering has been increasing steadily over the past few years. According to the National Police Agency, among all confirmed violations of the Law for Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography between January and June 2017, the number of selfie-related victims hit 263 -- a 10 percent increase from 2016.

    The trend is showing no signs of letting up, and a consultation service started by metro Tokyo in fiscal 2009 to support children affected by internet or cellphone issues has seen a rise in consultations concerning sexual images.

    According to an official at metro Tokyo's Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety, many of the victims get to know the perpetrators through social media. The children who send the images apparently do so for reasons including, "I don't want to fall out with the other person," or, "We've become friendly, so if it's just a secret between the two of us, then that's OK."

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