Japan vagina artist convicted in obscenity case

2016-05-09 12:23
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi smiles as she speaks to reporters in front of the Tokyo District Court on May 9, 2016. (Kazuhiro Nogi, AFP)

Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi smiles as she speaks to reporters in front of the Tokyo District Court on May 9, 2016. (Kazuhiro Nogi, AFP)

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Tokyo – A Japanese artist who makes objects shaped like her vagina was convicted on Monday after a high-profile obscenity trial, in a decision likely to reignite accusations of heavy-handed censorship.

The Tokyo District Court slapped Megumi Igarashi with a $3 700 fine, but the penalty was half what prosecutors had demanded as she was also cleared of one of several charges.

Igarashi was arrested two years ago for trying to raise funds online to pay for the construction of a kayak by disseminating a coded 3D image of her genitals that would allow users to make copies.

While Japan has a multi-billion-dollar pornography industry, actual depictions of genitalia are banned and the artist was charged in July 2014.

Igarashi who calls herself Rokude Nashiko – slang that loosely translates as "reprobate child" – was released days later following a legal appeal and after thousands of people signed a petition demanding her freedom.

But several months on, Tokyo police arrested her again for distributing "obscene" items – displaying decorated plaster figures moulded in the shape of her genitals and sending and selling CD-ROMs containing the computer code.

On Monday, the court convicted Igarashi for distributing material that was deemed obscene.

Igarashi and her supporters scoffed at the fact her genitals were the focus of a court case.

"I am innocent because neither the data for female genitals nor my art works shaped like female genitals are obscene," she told the court last year.

Prosecutors, who did not ask for jail time, had called for Igarashi to be fined 800 000 yen.

Japan's prolific pornography industry caters to all imaginable tastes, but tough obscenity laws ban the showing of actual genitalia, which normally appear pixellated or blacked out.

Images of male and female genitals can be found throughout the country, however.

Last month, revellers carried giant phalluses through the streets of Kawasaki, near Tokyo, to worship the penis and pray for fertility in an annual festival.

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