Law Against Possession of Child Porn Soon

TOKYO, Apr 24 (IPS) - When a visiting U.S. justice department official urged the Japanese government to not delay banning the individual possession of child pornographic material, it was a sign of the enormity of the problem stemming from this country.

Japan has long been criticised for being a ‘child pornography powerhouse’ in the world. The nation’s laws do not prohibit the purchase and possession of child porn, as long as the intention is not to further distribute such material.

Japan and Russia are the only members of the G-8 that do not criminalise the possession of child pornography, a multi-billion dollar business.

According to Andrew Oosterbaan, chief of the child exploitation and obscenity section in the U.S. justice department , lack of tight regulation in these countries has contributed to the worldwide demand for the production of these images.

"We must understand that a part of the reason this is difficult to beat is people everywhere have a lack of understanding why possession is as serious as any other crime of child pornography," Oosterbaan said at a press conference, last week.
In the U.S. police can access the computers of those who possess child porn which makes it easier to prosecute offenders and move against the abuse of children.

"We are focusing on possessors because we know when we get that computer, there is a good chance the computer is going to show us that he was producing, that he was banking images, that he was abusing children, making images," Oosterbaan said. "Or, we are going to find out that the computer belongs to a teacher or a minister or a priest. While you are not going to prosecute the problem away, it's important that you don’t ignore it either."

Japan’s ruling parties are considering the submission of an amendment bill, during the current session, that would prohibit the possession of child porn and punish violators, even if they do not intend to sell such images.

A 1999 law prohibits the sales of child pornography and the posting of related images on the Internet. The law was revised in 2004 to regulate the production and possession of child pornography, but applies only to people who intend to distribute such material.

Oosterbaan said he was encouraged by the response he received from Japanese lawmakers and added that they understood that there has been an escalation of violent crime affecting small children.

"It is getting worse because we are seeing crime images and videos of more horrific forms of abuse," he said. "Ten years ago images would depict children no younger than 13 engaged in relatively benign sexual activity. Now we commonly see infants, babies and toddlers tied up and tortured through sexual abuse and activity. We have to ask ourselves what’s going on."

According to U.S. investigators, 83 percent of collectors possessed images of children between the ages of six and 12. Close to 40 percent of images involved images of three to five-year-old children and 19 percent involved images of toddlers younger than three. Many of the images depicted violence, such as bondage, rape or torture, and most of those images had children gagged, bound, blindfolded, or otherwise enduring sadistic sex. A whopping 80 percent of cases involved pictures showing the sexual penetration of a child, including oral sex.

A major reason for the increase in these horrific images is the Internet. Previously paedophiles were isolated and regulated to a dark corner of society. The Internet exposed a huge community that bonded in child pornography and provided them with instant validation and encouragement.

"They strive for status in this community by having images that nobody else has such as the abuse of younger children," Oosterbaan said. "And that is one reason the images are escalating in terms of abuse."

No one knows the amount child porn that is now being circulated around the world.

It is difficult to measure the volume because the definition of child pornography differs from country to country, says Hiromasa Nakai, of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Japan. ‘’It is also available in forms of hard copy, DVD and photos and therefore it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to measure how the extent to which child pornography is circulated, distributed, sold or exchanged, ‘’he says.

Unlike in the U.S., Japan child porn in anime and cartoons is legally sold.
Pedophiles have children watch anime to encourage them into participating in child abuse. Anime are cartoon animations.

"We have observed quite of few of them in the form of child rape, and at the end the children enjoyed it and are happy," Nakai said. "When I went to Akihabara and visited one of the mega stores that sell ‘child porno,’ though it was just before the lunch time of weekday, there was a continuous flow of men between the ages of 20 -50,’’ he noted. In Tokyo’s Akihabara district, crowds of people spend hours in nondescript buildings shopping for anime, DVDs, and games.

"The type of child porn sold there (Akihabara) are also widely available on Internet," Nakai adds. "So, there certainly is a big market in Japan. However, this reality is not known by the majority of the general public.

"It is certainly an international problem and that's why we, who represent UNICEF in Japan, are actively involved in this, and therefore no single country can solve this problem. We need to act together. And we believe Japan, being an IT and ‘contents’ giant, has a big role and responsibility to act here."

Keiji Goto, a lawyer in Tokyo, agrees. "I think the Diet (parliament) will pass legislation to ban possession of child porn, because all parties recognise the importance of this issue."

In an opinion poll conducted by the cabinet office in 2007, more than 90 percent of respondents favored regulation of the possession of child pornography.

"Law Against Possession of Child Porn Soon" By Catherine Makino

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