Diet enacts law to ban possession of child porn images

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's Diet on Wednesday enacted a law designed to ban the possession by individuals of photos and videos of child pornography amid a growing number of child porn-related incidents in the country.

The House of Councillors passed the bill after it was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month. It amends the 1998 law on punishment of activities relating to child prostitution and child pornography.

Members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, its junior coalition partner, New Komeito party, and the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan voted for the revision bill.

"Manga" comics, animations and computer graphics are not subject to the revised law, which is expected to come into force as early as in July.

Under the law, individuals will be punished with a prison term of up to one year or a fine of up to 1 million yen for possession of pornographic images of children.

Individuals will become subject to the penalties one year after the legislation comes into force in order to give them time to dispose of images in their possession.

The revised law defines child pornographic photos and videos as those which are intended to expose or focus on children's sexual parts.

It urges Internet providers and related firms to help police investigate violations of the law and requires them to take action not to spread them.

The LDP, New Komeito and the opposition Japan Restoration Party jointly filed the bill with the Diet in May 2013.

The three parties held talks with the main opposition DPJ and small opposition Yuinotoh party in May this year and reached an accord to cut a supplementary clause which calls for research to cover comics, animations and computer graphics.

The number of child pornographic cases uncovered by the country's police departments reached 1,644 in 2013, a tenfold increase from 2000, police data show.

The figure broke down to 797 cases involving the production of child pornographic photos and videos and 847 cases involving the circulation of them to others.

The widespread use of smartphones is apparently behind the increased number, a National Police Agency official said, noting that in 318 cases or about 40 percent of the total, victims in such crimes sent their photos to perpetrators.

Sociologist Akihiko Morita, a professor at Shokei Gakuin University in Miyagi Prefecture, said photos and videos of child pornography violates children's dignity and legal restrictions are necessary to wipe them out.

On the other hand, lawyer Yuri Kawamura, who is deputy head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations' panel on children's rights, said the definition of child pornography is still unclear under the revised law, noting that investigative authorities might abuse the revised law.

June 18, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

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