FIGHTING KIDS' EXPLOITATION

Japan urged to host porn talks

The United Nations Children’s Fund called on the Japanese government Thursday to host an international meeting against child pornography and sexual exploitation next year.

Helena Karlen, a member of a nongovernmental group fighting the sexual and commercial abuse of children, said Japan needs to shed its image as a major consumer of child-porn products and prostitution tours to other Asian countries.

“Japan must demonstrate its willingness to combat these serious problems,” she said at a news gathering held in Tokyo as part of Thursday’s followup meeting to the 1996 World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

The followup meeting was presented by the Swedish Embassy and the Japan Committee for UNICEF and was attended by 14 experts from Sweden, Japan, Britain and the Philippines, including Upper House member Sumiko Shimizu, who represented Japan at the Stockholm gathering.

Other experts at the conference said movements to eradicate child pornography have been largely based in Europe and holding the conference in Japan could heighten global awareness of the problem.

The 1996 meeting, attended by 122 countries, required all participants to compile basic plans to eradicate domestic child pornography and other related crimes by 2000.

But, the experts said, most of the participating countries, including Japan, have yet to implement such basic plans, making it necessary to hold the second international conference as soon as possible.

After the 1996 conference, Japan established laws in 1999 to prohibit child prostitution

However, the experts said the laws need to be toughened to punish possession of child-pornography products, in order to crack down on the increasing transactions of such products on the Internet.

Agnes Chan, ambassador of the Japan Committee for UNICEF, also stressed the importance of educating the public that child prostitution and pornography are serious crimes.

“To eradicate sexual and commercial abuse of children, each one of us must develop a view that such conduct is a serious crime that deprives children of their futures,” Chan said.