Japanese sex comic book ruled obscene
( 2004-01-14 09:37) (Agencies)
A comic book which depicts genitalia and sexual acts in two thirds of its content was ruled obscene in a landmark court case which has sparked a debate on freedom of expression in Japan.
The Tokyo District Court found Monotori Kishi, a 54-year-old publisher, guilty of distributing obscene printed material and handed him a one-year prison term suspended for three years.
In April 2002, Kishi sold some 20,500 copies of the 144-page book, entitled "Misshitsu (Honey Room)" and marketed as for adults only. The book, consisting of eight short stories, was priced at 920 yen (8.7 dollars).
Kishi immediately appealed in the Tokyo High Court.
"It is an infringement on freedom of expression and deals a great blow to the publishing industry," he told a news conference. "The verdict will force publishing houses to curb their activities and lead to a decline in manga (comics)."
Two people -- the cartoonist and the chief editor of the comic book -- have been fined 500,000 yen (4,700 dollars) each.
Kishi's defence counsel had argued that an article in Japan's penal code, which prohibits the sale and distribution of obscene literature, violated the constitution which guarantees freedom of expression.
Eminent academics and critics had testified that it was not a matter for the state to judge obscenity and restricting expression was unconstitutional.
The penal code article itself does not clearly define obscenity but the legal precedent was set by a 1957 Supreme Court ruling over a Japanese translation of D.H. Lawrence's erotic novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover."
The Supreme Court declared that expression was obscene when it was "unnecessarily sexually stimulating, damages the normal sexual sense of shame of ordinary people, or is against good sexual moral principles."
In the comic book ruling, presiding judge Yujiro Nakatani said the publication was deemed obscene as "it is mostly devoted to undisguised, detailed portrayals of sex scenes."
Kishi's attorney contended that "freedom of sexual expression has been expanded" and that the comic book was not obscene as "it is not so stimulating as photographs or videos and the Internet is teeming with more radical products."
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