Tokyo: Around 20,000 people have signed a petition online urging Japanese authorities to release Megumi Igarashi, known as the "vagina artist", arrested last Saturday for distributing obscene material.
The petition to Tokyo police was promoted through Change.org and reflects the outcry in Japan over Igarashi`s case, which has also been taken up by the international media.
The Tokyo-based 42-year-old Igarashi, who works under the alias Rokudenashi-ko (Absurd Girl), has been nicknamed the "vagina artist" for her pop art sculptures and installations inspired by female genitalia.
Igarashi has been under arrest since last Saturday for allegedly spreading obscene material and in particular digital data which would enable the reproduction of her genitals with a 3D printer in exchange for money.
If found guilty, she could be sentenced to two years in prison or could be fined 2.5 million yen ($24,769), according to the Japanese media.
Igarashi launched a "crowd-funding" initiative online in order to raise funds to construct a "Kayak" in the shape of the female reproductive tract and managed to collect one million yen from some 125 donors, according to Japanese police.
The artist, who staged an exhibition in Tokyo in May this year, claimed she sent the digital data only to donors and added she did not consider the material obscene.
She claims her objective is to "defy taboos" and fight against the “discrimination" over female sexuality in Japanese society.
She has also announced her intention of "defending herself before the law" in statements released by Japan Times.
Japanese law prohibits the distribution of "indecent" material, although it does not define the category.