Skip to main content

Japan passes law banning possession of child pornography

By Jethro Mullen and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
updated 10:36 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Japan's parliamentary upper house passes law to ban possession of child pornography
  • Production and distribution were already outlawed
  • Campaigners say the bill should have included sexually explicit anime and manga
  • Industry says a ban on comics would restrict freedom of expression

(CNN) -- Japan has finally made the possession of child pornography a punishable offense.

The country's upper house of parliament passed a bill Wednesday, which will see people found with explicit images of children jailed for up to year or fined up to $10,000.

Uganda considers banning miniskirts
Singapore bans film over content
Library bans '50 Shades of Grey' as porn

The bill was a long time coming for activists who argued that Japan's relatively lax laws put children at risk by banning the production and distribution of child pornography, but not people found with it in their possession.

"It's been 10 years and it's finally changed. I'm so pleased that Japan finally moved one step toward the international standard," said Shihoko Fujiwara, from Lighthouse, a nonprofit group that helps exploited children.

"Under the existing circumstances, the suffering and damage has become more critical. I really hope that the law rescues suffering child victims, as well as the victims damaged in the past by stopping the circulation of child porn. This is the epoch-making event for Japan," she said.

Notable exclusions

The bill notably excludes the possession of explicit anime or manga, a point of contention for campaigners who say that cartoons depicting child sexual abuse should also be banned.

Representatives of those industries say that while they support the ban on real child pornography, any move to censor their products would be an unjustified restriction of freedom of expression.

Daisuke Okeda, a lawyer and inspector for the Japan Animation Creators Association, said it was "natural that animation is exempted."

"The goal of the law itself is to protect children from crime," he said. "Banning such expression in animation under this law would not satisfy the goal of the law."

Hiroshi Chiba, the manager of Chiba Tetsuya Production, one of the country's best known manga production houses, said that more could be done in terms of age restrictions on graphic content featuring children and to distinguish it more clearly from other comics. And he admitted that some products of the industry leave him and his colleagues "disgusted."

"But rich, deep culture is born from something that might not be accepted by all," Chiba said. "We need to allow the gray zone to exist as a necessary evil."

Child abuse in Japan

Porn site recruits teenage girls

Statistics show that child pornography remains a big problem in Japan.

Duke student: My porn career is 'freeing'

The U.S. State Department's 2013 report on human rights practices in Japan labels the country "an international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography."

It cited Japanese police data showing the number of child pornography investigations in 2012 rose 9.7% from a year earlier to a record of 1,596. The cases involved 1,264 child victims, almost twice as many as in the previous year.

Navy: Blue Angels dove into porn

Under the new law, people in possession of child pornography have one year to dispose of it before they risk prosecution.

Sexually explicit Japan manga evades new laws on child pornography

CNN's Junko Ogura and Will Ripley contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT