Japan was slow in updating its child pornography laws to bring them into line with those of the West. It was only in 1999 and 2003 that Japan caught up, with the passage of new laws that made it illegal to produce, distribute, sell, possess or trade in child pornography. Before 1999, it was only illegal to produce it.
Yet enforcement of the new laws has been lax, although that may have changed in the past month.
Fans and producers of a lucrative fad called "lolicon" got a wake-up call with the arrest of a publisher last month. "Lolicon" is a slang portmanteau of the phrase "Lolita complex", or "Lolita icon". The industry produces photo books and magazines with teenage and preteen models sometimes as young as eight years old. The format is usually "near nudity" or "implied nudity", but a recent photo set featuring a 14-year-old girl went too far.
"The girl's swimsuit was deliberately made to be see-through. It was so tight-fitting you could make out the shape of her genitalia and she'd been posed in such risque positions that the Metropolitan Police Department decided to arrest the maker for breaking the law banning child pornography, even though the girl hadn't actually exposed her bust or between her legs," a reporter told Weekly Playboy.
The arrest was the first of it kind in Japan, in which the child pornography laws were used in a case where the model was not actually nude.
In a similar case in Hong Kong last year, a magazine was ultimately cleared of a charge of child pornography after it featured a 14-year-old model in a semi-transparent white dress soaked in water. Although cleared on the charge, the editor was admonished for his lack of judgment.
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