Dismayed at what they call Japan’s entrenched tolerance of child pornography, organizations fighting the practice petitioned welfare minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki on Wednesday for legal revisions to crack down further on the sexual abuse of minors.
The move came after a revised child prostitution and pornography law took effect in July, outlawing private ownership of obscene products involving both male and female children under the age of 18.
But the stepped-up law, under which violators will face criminal penalties, including up to one year in prison or a maximum fine of ¥1 million, has so far done little to rectify Japan’s notoriously tepid attitude toward reining in child pornography, the petitioners told a news conference in Tokyo.
“Photo albums and DVDs depicting nudity of preteen children are still out on the shelves publicly and adult men pack events where they can shake hands and take photos with these idols or even hug them,” said lawyer Keiji Goto, who represents the nonprofit organization Think Kids.
These acts, the lawyer said, amount to sex abuse against children and the victims are bound to feel humiliation as they grow older when they start to realize the true meaning of what they went through.
“There is no denying that Japan remains a country tolerant of child pornography,” the petition says.
The petition for a stricter child welfare law was signed by organizations including Think Kids, the anti-human trafficking NPO Lighthouse and People Against Pornography and Sexual Violence (PAPS). The groups are calling for changes to the outdated law, which outlaws forcing those under 15 years of age to participate in acts such as serving sake and performing acrobatics for the purposes of public entertainment, acts that no longer reflect the reality of child abuse in today’s society, Goto said.
The petition also argues that the law should be revised to ban the distribution and sale altogether of “images and footage involving nudity of children aged under 15” and their commercial involvement in acts such as “massaging,” “lying alongside,” and “taking a stroll” with customers for the purpose of causing sexual arousal.
It also called for similar revision to a child abuse prevention law because in some cases children are forced into these acts by their parents, the petitioners said.
“Japan has been recognized by the international community as being more fraught with human trafficking compared to other developed countries,” said intercultural communications specialist Mari Christine, who heads Asian Women&Children’s Network.
“What I’m worried is that in the lead-up to the 2020 Olympic Games, traffickers who want to take advantage of such a situation in Japan will infiltrate the nation under the guise of being tourists.”