Japanese artist found guilty of obscenity over digital files of vagina

A Tokyo court ruled Monday that vagina-shaped objects created by a Japanese artist qualify as art, but found her guilty of obscenity for distributing digital data that could be used to make a three-dimensional recreation of her genitalia.

Tokyo District Court ordered Megumi Igarashi, also known as Rokudenashiko, or good-for-nothing girl, to pay a 400,000 yen ($4.800) fine for distributing the data, her lawyers said.

The court said a set of three plaster figures in the shape of her vagina, decorated and painted in bright colours, did not look like skin or immediately suggest female genitalia and therefore were not obscene, her lawyers said. However, the judges said the data, from a scan of her own vagina, could be used with a three-dimensional printer to create a realistic shape that could sexually arouse viewers.

Artist calls decision unacceptable

Igarashi welcomed the court's description of her work as "pop art," but appealed the ruling, saying its decision on the data was unacceptable.

Megumi Igarashi

Igarashi, who is also known for creating a vagina-shaped kayak, distributed computer discs containing the data as gifts to people who helped raise funds for the kayak project, her lawyers said. (Eigo Shimojo/Handout via Reuters)

The vagina figures were on display at a sex shop in Tokyo but were not for sale, according to Mayuko Nakamori, one of Igarashi's defense lawyers.

Igarashi, who is also known for creating a vagina-shaped kayak, distributed computer discs containing the data as gifts to people who helped raise funds for the kayak project, her lawyers said.

Igarashi has also sold tiny bright pink vagina dolls with frilly decorations and other related goods.

She says she initially chose the subject matter because of her personal interest, rather than as a statement about women's rights. In recent years she has teamed up with feminist activists and argued that sexism has made even discussions of female genitals taboo.

'Male-oriented view'

"There is very much a male-oriented view of what is considered obscene in terms of the female genitalia, and my work is to overturn those notions. I am extremely frustrated that that message did not come across to the judges," Igarashi told reporters after the ruling.

Igarashi was in custody for nearly three weeks in December 2014 before being charged over the display of the objects that year and the distribution of the digital data in 2013 and 2014. She has argued that she is using a vagina as a motif in art, and not for obscenity.

Despite Japan's lucrative pornography industry and tolerance of displays of scantily dressed women in ads and in magazines, its obscenity laws prohibit public displays of genitalia.

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