Japan's Parliament passed a law Wednesday that officially outlaws the possession of child pornography. Anime cartoons and manga comics, however, are exempted from this law, their sometimes sexually-charged material notwithstanding.

The new law, the New York Times writes, is specific to "photographs and videos showing actual children." Sexually explicit anime and manga, which are commonplace in the country and are readily available and widely consumed, are exempted. Further from the Times:

The exemption in the new law for the popular comics, and also of Japan's "anime" animated cartoons, was a concession to the nation's powerful publishing and entertainment industries. It also leaves untouched a vast gray area in which young girls are depicted in sexually suggestive ways. This includes everything from images of the all-girl bands of Japanese pop music posing in lingerie and bikinis, to fantasy illustrations with the faces of prepubescent girls atop the scantily clad bodies of voluptuous adults.

"While there are concerns that such illustrations might encourage the viewing of children as sexual objects, freedom of expression is also an important issue," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday.


The ban comes as child pornography cases rise in Japan. From CNN:

The U.S. State Department's 2013 report on human rights practices in Japan labels the country "an international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography."

It cited Japanese police data showing the number of child pornography investigations in 2012 rose 9.7% from a year earlier to a record of 1,596. The cases involved 1,264 child victims, almost twice as many as in the previous year.

Under the new law, possession of child pornography carries a punishment of up to a year in prison and a fine up to about $10,000.


[Image via AP]