Arrest of Japan artist for distributing data of 3-D vagina model sparks protest

TOKYO (AFP) - The Japanese police have arrested a Tokyo artist on obscenity charges for distributing data that allowed recipients to make 3-D prints of her vagina, sparking protests over what supporters said was an attack on free expression.

Ms Megumi Igarashi, 42, who calls herself "Rokude Nashiko", which roughly translates as "bastard kid", had been trying to raise funds online to pay for the construction of a kayak, using a 3-D printer, modelled on the shape of her genitals.

Japan has a notoriously vibrant pornography industry that caters to a vast array of tastes. But obscenity laws still forbid the depiction of actual genitalia, which usually appear censored or pixellated in images and videos.

The artist - who has created other genital-inspired artworks - was arrested on Saturday for "distributing data that could create an obscene shape through a 3D printer," a police spokesman told AFP on Tuesday.

Before her arrest, Igarashi - who remained in detention on Tuesday - had collected about one million yen (S$12,210) through an Internet crowd-funding site.

In exchange for donations, she supplied data to supporters that would let them create 3-D prints of her genitals.

Ms Igarashi's supporters said they were shocked by what they described as the police's unusually broad use of Japan's obscenity in this case.

Activist Minori Kitahara said the police raided Ms Igarashi's office and seized 20 of her artworks.

"Japan is still a society where those who try to express women's sexuality are suppressed, while men's sexuality is overly tolerated," she said.

Japan's pornography industry is predominantly targeted at men and the country only last month made the possession of child pornography illegal.

The ban excludes "manga" comics - those aimed at adults as well as children, "anime" video and computer-generated graphics, following calls to protect freedom of expression.

Campaigners had long urged Japan to toughen its stance on child pornography, complaining it was a major source of the material for global markets.

If convicted, Ms Igarashi could receive up to two years in jail or a fine of as much as 2.5 million yen, according to her lawyer.

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