TOKYO Japan has failed to bring child
pornography under control, leaving children around the world at
risk, UNICEF said on Tuesday as it launched a campaign to stamp
out exploitation of minors.
Japan's government is inching towards a ban on the
possession of obscene images of children, which would bring it
into line with most other industrialised countries.
But the Japan branch of the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF) urged Tokyo to beef up its laws by banning child
pornography in manga comics, animated films and computer games
as well as individual possession.
"Japan, a major player in information technology, is left
uncontrolled, meaning children both here and around the world
are suffering sexual exploitation for the sake of child porn,"
UNICEF said in a statement.
A previous campaign prompted laws, enacted in 1999 and
2004, that banned child prostitution and the production and
sale of obscene images of children under 18, but simple
possession of such material remains legal.
"The media report child pornography cases almost daily,"
the statement continued. "Hundreds of cases have been brought
to court, but they are the tip of the iceberg and figures are
A committee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party set up
to look into a possible ban on the possession of child
pornography, as well as penalties, held its first meeting last
"It turned out that almost all the members were in favour
of banning individual possession, so we are moving in that
direction," Mayumi Moriyama, a former justice minister who
heads the committee, told the news conference.
Critics, including Washington's ambassador to Tokyo, Thomas
Schieffer, say Japan's failure to ban possession has hampered
international investigations into child pornography rings.
Schieffer was set to visit Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama
later on Tuesday to press him on the issue, the Yomiuri Shimbun
reported. Hatoyama has already said he is in favour of a ban.
"I am ashamed to say that our society takes the view that
it is all right to possess child porn," lawyer and children's
rights campaigner Keiji Goto told reporters, adding that
obscene photographs were often used by paedophiles to persuade
children that sexual exploitation is normal.
UNICEF also called on prosecutors and courts to apply
current legislation more strictly, pointing out that photo
books and DVDs featuring small children in bikinis are freely
available in stores and over the Internet.
Japan and Russia are alone among G8 countries in not
banning possession of child pornography.
Some members of Japan's main opposition Democratic Party
oppose a ban because it might grant police too much power,
domestic newspaper reports have said.
(Reporting by Isabel Reynolds; Editing by John Chalmers)