At a glance: Japan

Child rights advocates seek to strengthen laws against child pornography in Japan

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© Japan Committee for UNICEF/2010
Japan Committee for UNICEF Executive Director Ken Hayami (second from left) and UNICEF Japan Ambassador Dr. Agnes Chan (third from left), with representatives of the committee’s non-governmental partners, submitted a petition to strengthen laws against child pornography.

TOKYO, JAPAN, 31 March 2010 – In recent months, the Japan Committee for UNICEF has been building momentum with its ‘Say “No” to Child Pornography’ campaign. The campaign seeks to reform Japanese law and criminalize not only the sale and manufacture of child pornography, but also its possession and purchase.

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UNICEF has been tackling the issue of child pornography in Japan since 1996, when the first World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children was held in Stockholm, Sweden. The World Congress helped Japanese delegates examine their own country’s attitudes and try to restrict what was then seen as legal tolerance toward child pornography. 

Japan Committee for UNICEF Executive Director Ken Hayami said Japanese child rights advocates worked hard to change their country’s laws and attitudes after the Stockholm conference. “We have been successful in advocating the parliamentarians to establish a new law against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, which was formalized in 1999,” he noted.

‘Say “No” to Child Pornography’

Now, Mr. Hayami said, it’s time to take that campaign a step further and act against the proliferation of child pornography. He pointed out that new technology makes Internet distribution of such material easier than ever, allowing for phenomenal expansion of this kind of violence and abuse against unless action is taken to stop its spread.

Launched in 2008 by the Japan Committee for UNICEF and its non-governmental partner organizations, ‘Say “No” to Child Pornography’ has collected about 115,000 signatures from the public in an attempt to change Japanese law.

Under the proposed new legislation, possession would be illegal even if the offender has no intention of selling or for distributing child pornography.

Talking about the taboo

For a long time, Japanese society has been quiet about this issue, which is generally seen as taboo. Children’s advocates have been vocal in countering those who would prefer to keep subjects like child pornography hidden.

Among the advocates adding their voices to the campaign is singer and activist Dr. Agnes Chan. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Japan, Dr. Chan has been working on the issue of child pornography for many years; she sees it as one of the central children’s rights causes in the country.

“Japan is known to be one of the largest exporters and buyers of child pornography, and the law is insufficient. It needs to be changed,” Dr. Chan said, adding that preventing the production and sale of child pornography isn’t enough if it’s still permissible to possess or buy the images.
 
“If you let people do that, child pornography will not go away,” she argued.

Debate with opponents

Dr. Chan is hopeful that advocates can push the new law through during the current session of the Diet, Japan’s national legislature. But there are still some in Japan who oppose the proposed law on the grounds that it would limit the right of free expression or give too much power to the police.

In response, Dr. Chan and others are working to explain to opponents how devastating child pornography is for the young people involved.


 

 

Audio

12 March 2010: UNICEF Japan Ambassador Dr. Agnes Chan talks about changing Japanese law to criminalize the possession of child pornography
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15 March 2010: Japan Committee for UNICEF Executive Director Ken Hayami discusses the campaign to strengthen regulations against child pornography.
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