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At a glance: Japan

Saying ‘No’ to child pornography in Japan

UNICEF Image: Agnes Chan, Japan
© UNICEF Japan/2008
UNICEF Japan Goodwill Ambassador Dr. Agnes Chan Miling at the national preparatory meeting for the World Congress III, held at UNICEF House in Tokyo in October.

The World Congress III against the Sexual Exploitation of Children, set for 25-28 November 2008 in Brazil, aims to promote international cooperation for more effective action on sexual exploitation. Here is one in a series of related stories.

TOKYO, Japan, 18 November 2008 – Akihabara is one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist destinations. It is a neighbourhood known for its shops, specifically those that sell advanced electronic gadgets and appliances. But Akihabara is also becoming known for its DVD shops, many of which sell pornographic movies and magazines that depict the sexual exploitation of children.

Most, if not all of the pornography sold at these shops is currently legal in Japan. Some shops sell movies and magazines that depict underage children, mostly girls, in suggestive poses or outfits. Called 'junior idols', these materials are technically legal, but the exploitive nature of such products is troubling to authorities. Also troubling is the fact that these products are becoming more widely available on the Internet.

New technologies bring new threats

At the national preparatory meeting for the World Congress III, held at UNICEF House in Tokyo in October, Deputy Head of the Internet Hot Line Centre Seiji Yoshikawa spoke about the recent proliferation of child pornography websites.

“Although most of reported websites cannot be judged as illegal, we won’t tolerate any websites containing child pornography if we find them,” said Mr. Yoshikawa.

The rapid development and spread of new technology can endanger children in many ways. Director of the Youth Protection Office at the National Police Agency Makoto Kinugasa noted that the number of arrests related to child prostitution through dating-service websites has increased from 2001 to 2007. He noted that junior high and high school students accounted for 70 per cent of the victims of these sex crimes.

Co-representative Junko Miyamoto of ECPAT/Stop Japan – a network that aims to end child prostitution and trafficking – also reported that children’s behaviour in the online environment is complicating the situation. Ms. Miyamoto related that some children post their own naked pictures on the Internet or send them through mobile networks without realizing the risks.

Say ‘No’ campaign launched

To raise public awareness on the issue, and to call for concrete actions from both the public and private sectors, the Japan Committee for UNICEF, in partnership with ECPAT/Stop Japan, Yahoo! Japan and Microsoft Japan, launched the Say ‘No’ to Child Pornography campaign in March of this year.

The initiative was immediately echoed by the members of Parliament who had already been working with the UNICEF Japan on this issue. It also drew substantial media attention.

Both the ruling and opposition parties have formed special committees to begin reviewing the existing legislation, and a number of journalists have begun covering child pornography issue.

More than 100,000 respond

To date, the Say ‘NO’ campaign has collected more than 100,000 signatures of support from the general public. With such overwhelming support, laws are expected to be amended soon to criminalize simple possession of child pornography.

Four major Internet portal site providers recently responded to the public call by shutting down ‘junior idol’ sites from their services. Additionally, the National Police Agency is working with IT industry representatives on child-pornography filtering and blocking measures.

At the closing of the national preparatory meeting, UNICEF Japan Goodwill Ambassador Dr. Agnes Chan Miling called for further action. “Let us work together further to protect children – not only those in Japan, but also those who live abroad,” she said.



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