Japan must stamp out the impunity granted to people who sexually exploit children, including light sentences and the reluctance to prosecute, to overcome the nation's "institutional" tolerance for such crimes, a U.N. expert said Monday in Tokyo.

"Investigations and prosecutions are hardly ever initiated without a complaint lodged by the child victim. . . . The few cases that are prosecuted often end up with convictions that are suspended or entail low penalties, such as fines," Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, U.N. special rapporteur on child prostitution and pornography, said during a news conference at the Japan National Press Club.

De Boer-Buquicchio recently wrapped up an eight-day inspection of the situation surrounding sexual abuse in various parts of Japan, including Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa.