Japan Finally Bans Child Porn, Just Not Enough Of It

In a shockingly belated step forward, Japan's parliament finally banned the possession of child porn Wednesday, meaning that any Japanese resident found owning child pornography could face either a year in prison or a fine of roughly $10,000. The new law is bittersweet, though: On top of having a one-year grace period, pedophiles will also still have access to sexually explicit manga, anime and computer graphics, as the new law will only apply to child porn featuring real children. Which, for the "international hub" of child porn trafficking, is problematic. To say the least.

Japan's late to the game. Though the production and distribution of child porn was outlawed in the country back in 1999, it's actually one of the last developed nations to ban actually possessing the material — a situation that has "continued to hamper police efforts to enforce the law effectively and participate fully in international law enforcement," according to the 2013 U.S. Department of State’s Human Rights report.

This appears to have had disastrous consequences. Last year, police officials reported 1,596 child pornography investigations in 2012 — a record high number, up nearly 10 percent from the year before and almost 10 times higher than ten years ago. In fact, from 2012 to 2013, Japan was "an international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography," the same report said.

“We must fight against a tendency of looking at children as sexual objects, and allowing them to be taken advantage of, sexually and commercially,” said Sadakazu Tanigaki, Japan's justice minister, in Parliament on Tuesday, The New York Times reported.

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Wednesday's ruling will no doubt go far in rectifying the situation, but the exclusion of manga, anime and computer graphics is still worrying. In the U.S., it's against the law for someone to distribute, make or have pretty much any kind of visual representation of a minor engaging in a sex act.

In Japan, though, the law against possessing child porn won't apply to anything other than actual, real-life children — because no one's hurt in the making of a drawing, right?

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Actually, no. Though there's no direct link between child abuse and visual representations of child abuse, it's not hard to see where the problems could lie: by allowing visual depictions of children in sexually explicit situations to continue being commercialized, the law essentially oks the concept of sexualized minors.

And this normalization of the concept can have real-life repercussions: Shihoko Fujiwara, who runs a nonprofit for exploited children, explained to CNN: "The pedophiles might bring the animation and say 'this is how you practice with adults.'" Okaying the concept, in the other words, is too close to okaying the practice.

As Masatada Tsuchiya, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, told Reuters:

Of course freedom of expression is important. And I love manga. But some of the things out there are so depraved they aren't worth defending.