The Japanese parliament Wednesday passed a law prohibiting the possession of photos and videos pertaining to child pornography although it excludes comics, animated films or computer graphics.
The law, that could come into effect next month, is an amendment of the 1998 law which banned the circulation and production of pornographic photos and videos with minors for the first time although it did not make illegal the possession of such content.
Under the new law, possession of this material will be punishable with up to a year of imprisonment or fines of up to 1 million yen (nearly $9,800).
The law also urges internet providers and other connected companies to collaborate in police investigations on law violations and compels them to take measures to prevent the circulation of such content.
Till now, Japan was the only G7 country where possession of child pornography was not punishable by law.
The revised law defines child pornography as photos and videos designed to show or focus on the intimate parts of children.
Three political groups proposed that the law include "the investigation of possible links between materials related to child pornography in the manga (comics), animation, computer graphics and other media and the violation of children's rights".
Nonetheless, the lack of support from the main opposition Democratic Party and pressure from the publishing, computer graphics and audiovisual industry as well as renowned cartoonists and illustrators forced them to retract the revision.
These powerful industries have blocked several initiatives seeking to limit the production and distribution of their contents.
Their argument is that these recreational activities do not violate the rights of any child and that broadening the definition of child pornography will result in a vague and subjective concept that could restrict the freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, groups in favour of extending the scope of the law argue that these products promote stereotypes of negative conduct.
Japan, along with Russia and the US, is considered one of the principal traffic generators on the internet with regard to child pornography.
In all, 1,633 child pornography cases were uncovered by the Japanese police in 2013, 10 times more than in 2000, an increase believed to be due to the rising use of smartphones.
However, experts and groups advocating stricter laws say that the actual number of cases is much higher in the Asian country.
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