A group of lawmakers is stepping beyond party lines to submit a bill to the House of Councilors that will toughen laws against the sexual exploitation of minors at home and abroad.

Because both governing and opposition camps have agreed to basic amendments to the bill, it is highly probable that it will clear the current Diet session, scheduled to run until June.

The legislation is partially in response to international criticism of Japanese “sex tours” in Southeast Asia and the rising number of child pornography Web sites being set up in Japan, proponents say.

The bill, which could be submitted as early as today, treats those younger than 18 as children and makes it illegal to pay them for sexual acts or to force them to touch their own genitals.

It will be the first nationwide attempt to curb “enjo kosai” — literally compensated dating — a trend in which men entice teenage girls into having sex with them for large sums of money or expensive designer items.

The bill also forbids the manufacture, sale, distribution and import or export of photographs, videos and other material depicting children in sexual acts. It carries a maximum penalty of a 1 million yen fine or three years imprisonment.

Currently, under the Criminal Code, sexual intercourse with a child less than 13 years of age is considered rape, but it is the victim’s responsibility to prove the fact. In contrast, the bill about to be submitted would not place the burden of proof on the minor.

The bill was submitted to the House of Representatives during last year’s ordinary Diet session by a group of lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party and the now-disbanded New Party Sakigake. However, it was put on the back burner because the Democratic Party of Japan expressed concerns that it might violate freedoms of speech and expression. A study group comprising lawmakers from across the party spectrum was then established to begin looking at possible amendments.

As a result, the legislators agreed to scrap a clause that banned possession of such material if there was no intent to sell. They also decided to add a clause saying the law would be implemented in a way that would not unreasonably infringe upon people’s rights.

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