In a bid to crack down on child prostitution, the Diet on Thursday passed a bill revising a law controlling the sex industry to prohibit people under 18 from using telephone dating clubs.

The House of Representatives approved the bill to revise the Law Regulating Businesses Affecting Public Morals in a plenary session. The revision will come into effect within a year.

The bill also requires Internet service providers to make efforts to prevent distribution of child pornography.

Telephone dating clubs — widely viewed as promoting prostitution, including child prostitution — have traditionally been regulated under prefectural ordinances.

In most such operations, women call male users toll-free and do not have to identify themselves. Men, however, are obliged to pay for the calls by credit card or prepaid card and thus can be identified by the operators. The toll-free numbers are often printed on packets of free tissue paper distributed on the streets.

The bill, which requires telephone club operators to confirm that their clients are age 18 or over, stipulates that specific ways to confirm age will be decided upon by the National Public Safety Commission.

The commission plans to let telephone dating clubs connect calls from women to men only after female customers have faxed identification documents to the club operator.

Operators of clubs with no fixed premises will be able to issue membership cards to females through video rental shops and other outlets. Female prospective customers would have to present identification to obtain such cards, which will bear passwords to enable connection to the clubs. Public safety authorities, empowered under the new law to order telephone dating club operators to suspend or halt their businesses, can impose penalties of up to one year imprisonment and a fine of 1 million yen upon operators that ignore their orders.

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