The prohibition against possession of child pornography was finally signed into law by the Japanese government, in response to international pressure calling for a tightening of regulations.
The bill, which passed through Parliament on Wednesday, bans the possession of pornographic photographs or videos of children.
People will found with materials deemed child pornography can be jailed for up to a year or fined up to 1 million yen ($10,000). Under the law, offenders are allowed a grace period of one year to dispose of such materials.
The law was first proposed last year in May as an amendment to an earlier law that banned the production and distribution of child pornography but not ownership of such materials. Child rights activists say the law was long overdue.
“It’s been 10 years and it’s finally challenged. I’m so pleased that Japan finally moved one step toward the international standard,” said Shihoko Fujiwara of Lighthouse, a nonprofit group that helps exploited children.
However, the law notably excludes sexually explicit depictions of children in comics, animation and computer graphics, which are easily found in anime-loving Japan.
Representatives of these “creative industries” say that while they support the ban on real child pornography, any move to censor their creations would be a hindrance of their freedom of expression.
They also said that their industries stand as pillars of the government’s “Cool Japan” effort to promote culture-related exports, such as manga, which generate hundreds of billions of dollars in annual revenues.
“The goal of the law itself is to protect children from crime,” said Daisuke Okeda, a lawyer and inspector for the Japan Animation Creators Association.
“Banning such expression in animation under this law would not satisfy the goal of the law.”
The US Department of State’s human rights report in 2013 decried Japan as an “international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography.”
By Maesie Bertumen
Feature Image: Sebra / Shutterstock.com