J. Thomas Schieffer: Japan must penalize possession of child porn

January 1, 2009

The Asahi Shimbun

Around the world at this time of year, we love to see the innocence and wonder of children enjoying the holiday season, whether it is a big-eyed child talking to Santa in America or a happy child in Japan receiving an otoshidama cash gift. For many of us, the innocence of children is what makes this time of year so special.

But for Mari and Jun (not their real names), the innocence of childhood was lost long ago. Why? Because deviant adults full of greed and perversion sexually abused and exploited them to make child pornography.

An FBI agent in Los Angeles saw their images in an investigation of child pornography.

Mari, a little Japanese girl no more than 12 years old, was videotaped as she was being raped by an adult Japanese male. Jun, a little Japanese boy no more than 9 or 10 years old, was videotaped undressing before an adult Japanese man who forcibly groped Jun and performed oral sex on him.

With the rise of the Internet, child pornography has become a multibillion-dollar business, connecting every dark corner of the globe. And all that child pornography is having an effect. According to a report made to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons by two psychologists, 85 percent of the prisoners convicted of child pornography crimes admitted that they had sexually abused children.

There is an epidemic of child pornography sweeping the world, and we all need to do something about it.

The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Italy--six of the Group of Seven (G-7) countries--have all passed laws making it a crime to possess child pornography.

Only Japan allows people to possess these hideous images without penalty. Critics argue that innocent people will be prosecuted if Japan passes such a law.

But what about the innocence of Mari and Jun? They were the victims of a crime. For the rest of their lives, they will be haunted by the images that crime produced.

When other children are urged to use the Internet to expand their knowledge, Mari and Jun will worry about their dark secret being exposed. As they grow older and even have children of their own, Mari and Jun will have to be concerned about those images being revealed to the people they love. Who would want such a fate for their children?

Six of the G-7 countries have found ways to protect the innocent from being prosecuted for possession of child pornography. Is it not time for Japan to find a way to punish the guilty?

The problem of child pornography is not confined to Japan, though Japan has become a major source and center for its production, distribution and consumption.

To get rid of it, we must all join together to fight it.

Right now, Japanese police cannot confiscate this material. Neither can they arrest nor prosecute those who are creating the demand for this tragic product. They need the tools to join the fight.

This year, when you see children enjoying the season, rejoice in their happiness. And make a New Year's resolution that you will do everything possible to make sure that no child ever has to suffer again the way Mari and Jun have suffered.

Urge your government and governments around the world to join the fight against child pornography. Maybe then Mari and Jun will find hope and a little joy in the New Year.

(IHT/Asahi: January 1, 2009)