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Australian Journal of Asian Law

Abstract from Volume 12 No 2 (2010)

Re-reading the Chatterley Decision: An Analysis of Japanese Obscenity Decisions from 1889 to 1957

Yuri Obata is Assistant professor in Communication Studies at the Ernestine M Raclin School of the Arts, Indiana University South Bend.

In this article, the obscenity decisions and free speech laws in Japan from the late 19th century to the Lady Chatterley Lover’s decision in 1957 are analysed for the purpose of examining the continuity in the Supreme Court’s approach to obscenity cases between the Meiji Constitution and the 1947 Constitution. The reading of the Chatterley decision suggests that the court’s approach in regulating sexual expression did not change a great deal after the installation of the 1947 Constitution, even though it was expected to provide more freedom of speech in postwar Japanese society. This article explores the reasons why the post-war Japanese courts continued to rule on obscenity cases, safeguarding values and beliefs endorsed under the Meiji Constitution. It also examines what aspects of such values and beliefs have been maintained by the Chatterley decision and by the contemporary Supreme Court. It is argued that since the early 20th century the Supreme Court of Japan has continuously endorsed the idea that the maintenance of morality and sexual order in society is of the utmost importance in the public sphere, whereas the consumption of sexual materials should stay within the private sphere.

(2010) 12(2) Asian Law 248

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