Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Revising child porn law

"In Japan, people unfamiliar with child pornography may simply condense the issue into one concerning indecent images of boys and girls.

"But a brief search on the Internet can quickly reveal the abhorrent nature of the crime. Countless "crime scene photos" of children being sexually abused and stripped of their human dignity are available online. The children in those images may never heal from their emotional scars.

"One source of their anguish is not knowing if the images are still circulating and to what extent. Perhaps someone is viewing these photos right now--and maybe the viewer could recognize the victim.

"The Law Banning Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, which was enforced in 1999, prohibits the production or distribution of child porn images. In addition, the law criminalizes possession of such images for the purpose of distribution.

"But privacy concerns have prevented any legal action against simple possession of child porn or downloading images from the Internet for personal use.

"During the decade since the creation of the law, the environment surrounding child porn has changed drastically with advanced Internet technologies.

"File exchange software allows one to gain a huge number of pictures in an instant. And images uploaded onto the Net are nearly impossible to completely remove.

"Although the damage continues to expand, the current law is insufficient to effectively crack down on offenders.

"We cannot allow the victimized children to continue suffering. Simple possession of child porn must be restricted as soon as possible. Compared with other countries, Japan has been slow to act. Among the Group of Eight industrialized nations, the only other country apart from Japan that does not forbid simple possession is Russia.

"In the current ordinary Diet session, deliberation of revision bills tabled by both the ruling and opposition parties has begun.

"The ruling coalition's bill proposes to punish those who possess child porn images "for the purpose of fulfilling sexual curiosity."

"On the other hand, the bill of opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) intends to punish those who actively obtain child porn images, either repeatedly or in exchange for money.

"Minshuto's bill requires more strict conditions than simple possession to establish a crime out of concerns over wanton abuse of the law by the authorities.

"Minshuto's concerns are well-founded. It would be going too far for authorities to crack down on those who just happened to have child porn images sent to them by e-mail without their consent or if they stumbled across such images on the Internet.

"We urge both the ruling and opposition parties to seriously debate how to prevent abuse of the law and reach an agreement to put effective legal restrictions in place.

"Minshuto's bill also includes stronger and more substantial measures to protect the victimized children. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough, particularly in cases of constant, repeated abuse. Investigative authorities must increase their efforts to identify and rescue the children who appear in pornographic images.

"At the same time, medical research of pedophile behavior is also necessary. A number of countries abroad restrict child pornographic expressions found in artworks, like animation and computer graphics. The move is based on the idea of halting the tendency to treat children as sex objects.

"This restriction risks violating freedom of expression. Because this issue should be debated carefully, it should be separated from the current revision process."

By Asahi Shimbun (Editorial, 6/29/2009), Link to article (last visited 7/1/2009)

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