Effective control of child porn

There seems little chance that a law that protects children under 18 years old against sexual exploitation will be revised during the current Diet session. Both the ruling and opposition camps should strive to reach a compromise to improve the control of child pornography, since both camps have agreed on the need for a stronger law.

In 2008, the police took action in 676 cases — 109 more than in 2007 — and against 412 people in connection with child porn. A total of 351 children under 18 years old were victims. The Internet was used in 254 cases. The 2008 figures were the worst since statistics were first taken in 2000.

Japan enacted its current law in 1999 following criticism leveled against its loose restrictions on child porn by the first World Congress Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, held in Stockholm in 1996 and sponsored by UNICEF and other organizations. The law punishes those who make, sell or offer child porn, or possess it for the purposes of selling or offering it. Among the Group of Eight industrialized nations, Japan and Russia are the only nations in which the possession of child porn — if not for sale or offer — is not punishable.

Because child porn spreads easily over the Internet, justice and home affairs ministers of the G8 nations issued a statement in June 2008 condemning “all forms of sexual exploitation of children,” including “the alarming flood of images of sexual abuse of children — so-called child pornography — on the Internet.” In the same month the ruling camp submitted a bill to the Diet to revise the law: A person who possesses child porn to satisfy his or her sexual curiosity would face imprisonment for up to one year or a fine up to ¥1 million.

Thinking that the ruling bloc’s bill would lead to arbitrary investigations, the Democratic Party of Japan submitted its own bill: A person who purchases child porn or repeatedly obtains it would face imprisonment for up to three years or a fine up to ¥3 million. Since Japan lags other nations in the control of child porn, the ruling and opposition camps should not waste any time in striking a compromise.