Japan artist on trial over vagina art

Japan artist on trial over vagina art says fighting for free expression.

TOKYO, JAPAN (APRIL 15, 2015) (REUTERS) – A Japanese artist arrived on Wednesday (April 15) for her first court case on charges of obscenity after making objects modeled on her vagina.

Megumi Igarashi, 43, was arrested last year after building a kayak with a top shaped like her vagina and sending 3D printer data of her scanned genitalia, the digital basis for the boat, to a number of donors.

She faces up to two years in jail and fines of up to 2.5 million yen ($20,900) if found guilty.

“I want to prove that I’m not in the wrong,” she said, adding there was nothing wrong with her artwork and her arrest showed how far Japan was behind the West in terms of sexual equality.

Her arrest, on suspicion of distributing obscene materials, triggered debate in Japan over women’s rights and artistic freedom.

“The difference (between overseas and Japan) is, Japan is still backwards in terms of women’s sexual expression, and is not acknowledged at all except as something for men’s pleasure,” said Igarashi, who works under the name “Rokudenashiko” or “good-for-nothing girl” said at a press conference after her first appearance at the Tokyo District Court.

Although Japan has an extensive pornography industry, it remains 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 as a way to avoid obscenity charges.

The lawyer defending Igarashi says her artwork is far from pornographic.

“Her artworks, including plastic, FRP products made with 3D printers, resemble female genitalia, but I don’t think they incite desire, which means they don’t violate any obscenity laws,” he told Reuters, adding he is confident she will win.

A 1951 Supreme Court case broadly defined obscenity as something that stimulates desire and violates an ordinary person’s sense of sexual shame and morality.

Other Japanese artists, such as Eri Shibata are worried about what this arrest represents to the community.

“This would be a different case if it had to do with something like child pornography, where someone is being hurt. But, when it comes to prohibiting a 2D image or expression, even if it may be obscene, I think that in itself is an act of violence,” Shibata told Reuters.

While depictions of female genitalia remain largely taboo in Japan, representations of male genitalia are shown at shrines and in some festivals, where giant phalluses are paraded openly through the streets.

Igarashi’s trial is expected to continue for some months.