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Vagina figurines display is art but digital distribution obscene: Japan

The court found Igarashi guilty for distributing digital data of indecent material and fined her 400,000 yen ($3,700). Prosecutors had sought a fine of more than $7,400.

world Updated: May 09, 2016 19:10 IST
Vagina figurines

Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, known as Rokudenashiko, holds her vagina-inspired artworks after a news conference following a court appearance in Tokyo.(Reuters file photo)

A Tokyo court acknowledged Monday that a vagina-shaped kayak created by a Japanese “vagina artist” is art while on display but found her guilty of violating the country’s obscenity law by distributing it in the form of digital data.

The Tokyo District Court ordered Megumi Igarashi, known as alias Rokudenashiko, or good-for-nothing girl, to pay a fine of 400,000 yen ($3,700) over the illegal distribution of her scanned vagina data, her lawyers said. Prosecutors had sought a fine of more than $7,400.

The court however said Igarashi’s figurines - decorated with fake fur and glitter - could be considered “pop art”.

The kayak, painted in bright colours and decorated, does not look like skin or immediately suggest female genitalia, and was not considered obscene, presiding judge Mihoko Tanabe said, according to Kyodo News. The ruling said, however, that the data, though it’s flat and inorganic, realistically portrays the shape of a vagina and could sexually arouse viewers.

“This verdict is extremely rare,” said Takashi Yamaguchi, one of her lawyers, adding that it had “high historic value”.

Igarashi said she was “20% happy” that the court acknowledged her figurines as art, but stressed she was “completely innocent”.

“I am of course indignant. I will appeal and continue to fight in court,” she told a news conference, where she displayed several pink vagina figurines that prosecutors had argued were obscene.

Igarashi was arrested and briefly jailed in 2014 after building a kayak and making figurines modelled on her vagina, and sending 3D printer data of her scanned genitalia, used to make the boat, to a number of donors who helped fund the project.

Igarashi’s arrest and detention triggered a debate about women’s rights and artistic freedom in Japan. More than 1,000 people tweeted about the verdict soon after it was announced, many of them expressing anger and questioning the court’s logic.

“What? How about products resembling male or female genitalia displayed at adult sex shops? Are they permissible?” questioned one Twitter user in response to the verdict.

Although Japan has an extensive pornography industry, it is regulated by a section of the criminal code that dates back to 1907. Video pornography in Japan has often used digital mosaics to obscure genitalia in sex scenes to avoid obscenity charges.

While depictions of female genitalia remain largely taboo, representations of male genitalia are shown at shrines and at some festivals, where giant phalluses are paraded openly through the streets as symbols of fertility and sexual health.