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The Japan Committee for UNICEF said Tuesday it has launched a petition drive on its Web site to push the government into taking stronger action against child pornography.

A statement compiled by the committee and posted on the site www.unicef.or.jp urges the government and the Diet to punish possession of kiddie porn and outlaw “virtual” forms of child pornography, including books featuring sexual images of small children.

It also urges establishment of a system to support and care for victims of the industry and demands prosecutors and courts apply existing laws more strictly to punish the people involved.

The law bans production and distribution of child pornography but does not prohibit its possession “for personal use.” It also has no provisions addressing animation and game software featuring child porn.

“There are effectively no regulations against people who demand child pornography” in Japan, Ken Hayami, the UNICEF committee’s executive director, told a news conference in Tokyo.

“If no action is taken, I am worried that Japan will again be criticized as a ‘child pornography giant,’ ” he said.

Despite the introduction of a law nine years ago banning child pornography, sexual products including videos, photo albums and comics featuring children are still widely available, leaving large numbers of children subject to sexual exploitation, the committee said.

“This is a human rights violation,” Agnes Chan, the ambassador of the committee, said in Japanese. “The trauma of the children will probably not disappear in their lifetimes, and it is a crime for children to be used as sexual tools. In some cases it can be fatal. An entire lifetime of happiness can disappear. We must not allow” that to happen, she said, reading out messages from some of the victims.

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