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The Lower House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved during its Friday session a bill banning the act of paying a minor 18 years of age or younger for sex, bringing the legislation one step closer to enactment.

The bill, which is expected to be enacted after being approved by the Lower House plenary session Tuesday, not only prohibits buying sex from those under 19 but also bans the manufacture, sale and distribution of obscene photographs, videos and Internet images of them.

The bill would also apply to sexual acts overseas, and all violators may be prosecuted without the victim having to shoulder the burden of proof.

Proponents of the bill say that it would provide a legal basis for penalizing Japanese who go on notorious “child sex” tours to other Asian nations as well as those who have sex with junior high and high school girls in return for presents and cash gifts.

Violators would face a maximum three years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 1 million yen for buying sex from a minor, while the penalty for distributing pornographic material depicting children may be a prison term of up to three years or a fine of up to 3 million yen.

In order to protect the rights of the children involved, the bill also prohibits the media from reporting their identities or the names of the schools they attend.

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