We’ve entered the second year of an insane legal battle between the Japanese government and Megumi Igarashi, an artist who was arrested for displaying images and molds of her own vagina and now faces a possible 2-year jail sentence and a $20,000 fine.
Her arrest is a result of Japan’s whacko obscenity laws. Article 175 of the Japanese penal code outlaws the possession or sale of obscene objects and images but nowhere in the code is obscenity defined. Furthermore, government officials are not legally bound to specify what counts as obscene material. This enabled Japanese police to arrest and interrogate Igarashi for 23 days for making a working kayak shaped like her own vagina. A kayak. An object already resembling female genitalia, in which all Igarashi did was add some trademark wrinkles and folds. Meanwhile, a giant steel phallus is erected every year in Kawasaki, Japan, at Kanamara Matsuri, which literally translates to “Festival of the Steel Phallus.” It’s a giant penis in the middle of Tokyo, and the authorities are nowhere to be found.
It gets even more difficult to pinpoint the precise rules for determining obscenity when you take into account the fact that it is legal to make and sell manga depicting rape, incest, and pedophilia, so long as the vagina is blurred out. But no worries, because you can buy molds of porn star vaginas, which are bizarrely referred to as “woman holes” (because even coming close to saying vagina will have Japanese authorities clutching at their pearls in horror). Igarashi’s crime, therefore, appears to have been not making porn before casting her vagina and making the mold available to the public eye. The logic of this system is utterly lost on her supporters, who raised several thousand dollars on indiegogo to support a Hong Kong exhibition of Igarashi’s art, and that of like-minded artists. Gender, Genitor, Genitalia runs through September 20th and the proceeds go to helping pay Igarashi’s legal fees.
Image via 3ders.org
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Taia is a fabulous human who is working and writing in New York City. She writes about politics, reproductive rights, and pop culture. When not writing she likes to sleep, read Carl Sagan, and do as many squats as her legs can handle. Follow her on Twitter @taiahandlin and Facebook as Taia Handlin.