Why is there child pornography in Japan?

It is hard to imagine that this legal norm has not yet existed in the industrialized nation: The Japanese House of Commons has passed a law that makes possession of child pornography a criminal offense. Japan is responding to years of international criticism. However, pornographic depictions of children in Japanese manga comics remain legal.

Under the new law, anyone who has videos and photos of real children to "satisfy their sexual needs" will be fined up to a year in prison or up to a million yen. The regulation has yet to be passed by the House of Lords, which is expected before the end of the current parliamentary term on June 22nd.

For years, Japan has faced international pressure to align its child pornography laws with those in other developed countries.

Japan banned the production and distribution of child porn in 1999. Japan is still the only member of the G7 group in which the possession of child porn is allowed, said Hiromasa Nakai, spokesman for the UN children's aid organization Unicef. Alongside the USA and Russia, the Far Eastern economic power is one of the largest markets for sexual depictions of children. In Germany there is a risk of fines or imprisonment of up to two years for possession of child pornographic material.

Sexualized representation in mangas

Anyone who currently owns pornographic pictures or videos in Japan has one year after the enactment of the proposed law to eliminate them. However, critics doubt that the new law will significantly change attitudes towards the sexual exploitation of children in manga comics and animated films.

Suggestive depictions of children are not difficult to find in Japan. On the trains in Tokyo, the capital of millions, one can see again and again men leafing through manga comics with scantily clad school girls.

© Süddeutsche.de / dpa / mike