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New laws outlawing child pornography in Japan came into force in Japan on Monday and could eventually lead to a net reduction in the sexual exploitation of children on the Web.

Before Monday, the whole area of child porn was untouched by legislation, effectively making Japan an offshore haven for the global trafficking in paedophilia. The new law, ratified earlier this year, bans the production, distribution, sale, possession and trade of childporn.

If convicted, offenders could face up to three years in jail or be slapped with a fine of more than £15,000.

According to official figures 80 per cent of the world's child pornography on the Net originates from Japan. David Kerr, head of the anti-porn Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in Britain welcomed Japan's move. He said that lobbying from many governments and anti-porn groups - including the IWF - helped contribute to Japan's decision.

"We witnessed increasing volumes of child pornography coming from Japan but although we reported cases, we couldn't get them [Web sites] removed," he said. Now the practice has been outlawed, we should start to see a reduction in the amount of child porn available on the Net, he said. Although the news is to be welcomed, it shouldn't be assumed that the trade will simply dry up.

It will take a while for Japan's legislation to take effect and it's likely that much of the "Lolita trade" will be forced further underground. However, since Japan accounts for such a massive slice of the illegal trade it is likely to have a major impact on this sordid industry. ®

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