Megumi Igarashi, the Japanese artist best known for her vagina shaped construction of a kayak has been convicted after a high-profile obscenity trial. The 44 year old, who creates objects modelled on her vagina was convicted Monday in a decision likely to reignite accusations of heavy-handed censorship.
A Tokyo District Court fined Igarashi 400,000 yen ($3,700) however the penalty was halved by what prosecutors originally demanded. The sculptor was also cleared of one of several charges. “I believe I’m innocent. I’ll fight until the end,” Igarashi told a news briefing after the ruling. “I’ll appeal to the higher court. I want to fight these charges.”
For her day in court, Igarashi had lined a table with vagina-shaped figurines and waved to and greeted supporters who showed up to the trial. Igarashi was arrested two years ago for trying to raise funds online to pay for the construction of a kayak in the shape of her vagina, by disseminating a coded 3D image of her genitals that would allow users to make copies. While Japan has a tradition of pornographydating back to the 18th century, depictions of genitalia are banned.
Igarashi who calls herself Rokude Nashiko — slang that loosely translates as “reprobate child” — was released days later following a legal appeal and after thousands of people signed a petition demanding her freedom. But several months on, Tokyo police arrested her again for distributing “obscene” items — displaying decorated plaster figures moulded in the shape of her genitals and giving away CD-ROMs containing the computer code.
On Monday, justice Mihoko Tanabe convicted Igarashi of distributing obscene material, a charge that related solely to the CD-ROMs. The artist and her supporters scoffed at the fact her genitals were the focus of a court case. “I’ve been working to change the concept of obscenity, which is usually seen from the perspective of men — I’m mortified the judge didn’t understand that,” Igarashi said of the judge, who is female. Kenya Sumi, one of her lawyers, said it was “disappointing” that the court did not see the data as an artistic work — and warned the decision could have a chilling effect. “It would be regrettable if (the ruling) has the effect of intimidating other artists,” he said. Prosecutors, who did not ask for jail time, had called for an 800,000 yen fine.