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Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, urged Japan to maintain its 9 billion yen contribution level to the global charity to help meet the challenges posed by the ongoing economic crisis in Asia.

Bellamy named child prostitution at tourist destinations as one of the challenges facing Asia, and praised the Japan Committee for UNICEF for its work in the organization’s campaign against child pornography and child prostitution. “People have to stop accepting sexual exploitation of children as a given,” she said in an interview with The Japan Times.

The committee is calling for legislation that will punish people engaged in the production or distribution of child pornography in Japan. A bill for such legislation, now pending in the Diet, also calls for punishing Japanese who solicit prostitutes younger than 18 while overseas.

As part of the campaign, the committee sent Agnes Chan, the ambassador to the Japan Committee, to Thailand last week to visit nongovernmental organizations set up to help victims of child prostitution and their children, some of whom are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus.

Chan, also interviewed for this article, said many of their customers are Japanese. “The sex trade is a complicated, sad issue that feeds on the helpless and the myth that young girls will not have AIDS,” Chan said.

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