Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding that police free a Tokyo artist arrested on obscenity charges for distributing data that allowed recipients to make 3-D models of her vagina.

In the two days following the arrest of Megumi Igarashi, 42, the online petition platform Change.org had registered more than 17,000 signatures from supporters who say the work is a piece of art and not a sex toy.

Masanori Takano, a Tokyo-based programmer who kicked off the petition campaign on Monday, said Igarashi’s arrest is an attack on freedom of expression.

Takano believes her arrest makes no sense, saying the only thing Igarashi did was send data she had promised to provide in exchange for donations to her project.

“Did she cause trouble to anybody? It’s not like she showed (something obscene) at a public place where many, including those who don’t want to, could have seen it,” Takano told The Japan Times. “I believe her work is art and not an obscene object.”

He said he doesn’t know Igarashi personally but was familiar with her art before her arrest.

“She has clearly stated in writing her intention for her works, and they are not in the least obscene,” he said.

But some criminal law experts say data that can be used to create an obscene shape with a 3-D printer are without a doubt considered obscene material, and that Igarashi would be highly likely to lose a lawsuit arguing it is art.

Igarashi, who calls herself Rokudenashi-ko (“A No-good Girl”), was arrested for “distributing data that could create an obscene shape through a 3-D printer,” a police spokesman said Monday.

Igarashi, who was still in detention on Wednesday, had been trying to raise funds online to pay for the construction of a kayak modeled on the shape of her genitals last year.

She used the crowdfunding website Campfire, and collected ¥1 million from 125 people between June and September 2013. In exchange for donations, she supplied data to donors that would let them use a 3-D printer to make a model of her genitals.

Activist Minori Kitahara said the police raided Igarashi’s office and seized 20 of her artworks.

“Japan is still a society where those who try to express women’s sexuality are suppressed while men’s sexuality is overly tolerated,” Kitahara said.

Igarashi is known for genital-inspired artworks and has worked as an artist for more than five years, according to her supporters. She held an exhibition in Tokyo in May.

If convicted, she could face up to two years in prison or a fine of as much as ¥2.5 million, according to her lawyer.

Information from AFP-JIJI added

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