November 29, 2023

The Japanese government has taken a landmark decision that is set to bring significant changes to the nation’s Penal Code. The Cabinet has approved a bill which, among other changes, proposes to amend the age of sexual consent and redefine a range of sexual offense charges. This move comes as a direct response to mounting criticism from both national and international quarters over what many believe to be insufficient legal safeguards against child exploitation and sexual abuse in the country.


Currently, Japan holds the dubious distinction of having the lowest age of sexual consent among developed countries at 13 years old. This has been a point of contention for many years, drawing severe criticism from child consultation centers, legal institutions, and international human rights organizations who argue that the existing legal age is woefully inadequate to protect minors from sexual exploitation. Visit this webpage to discover why the age of consent in Japan is 13.


The proposed bill, currently under discussion in the parliamentary session, suggests raising the age of consent from 13 to 16. Notably, this age has remained unchanged since it was established in 1907. The reform seeks to criminalize sexual activities with individuals under 16, a move that is a significant departure from the previous law that didn’t account for consent in the case of minors.


In addition to altering the age of consent, the bill endeavors to redefine certain sexual offenses and broaden the definition of non-consensual sex. In a move that caused widespread dismay among welfare and counseling centers in 2017, the term “rape” in Japanese law was renamed to “forcible sexual intercourse.” However, this proposed legislative change seeks to address and rectify this by recognizing any act of sexual violation as a crime, even when it occurs in the absence of physical violence or overt coercion.


The central aim of these proposed amendments is to provide more clarity and precision around the concept of consent. As a result, any sexual act carried out without consent will be defined and recognized as illegal. This definition will help victims of sexual assault in their pursuit of justice, as it accounts for situations where victims are unable to provide explicit consent.


Moreover, the bill suggests extending the statute of limitations for prosecuting cases of non-consensual intercourse from the current 10 years to 15 years. This extension will also apply to cases of indecent assault resulting in injury, increasing from 15 years to 20 years. The new amendments will further stipulate that for victims who were under the age of 18 at the time of the assault, the statute of limitations will not begin until they turn 18. This change will ensure that victims have sufficient time to come forward and seek justice.


Further steps to protect victims from sexual abuse are covered in the proposed bill, such as the criminalization of acts like taking sexually explicit photographs without the individual’s consent, producing illicit images without permission, and offering financial rewards to groom children under the age of 16.


The urgency for this legislative overhaul has been highlighted by several high-profile sexual assault cases in Japan that provoked national outrage. These included a case where a father was acquitted despite allegations of having non-consensual sex with his teenage daughter. Critics argue that these verdicts exposed the limitations of current laws that define sexual assault primarily based on the victim’s ability to resist and the presence of physical violence or threats.


Recognizing these shortcomings, the Justice Ministry’s proposed changes to Japan’s sex crime laws aim for a more comprehensive approach. This includes taking into account factors that can render consent invalid, such as intoxication, drugging, surprise, and psychological manipulation. It is expected that this legislative overhaul could come into effect as early as this summer. However, it should be noted that there may still exist an exception for sexual relations involving individuals who are at least 13 years old, or when the age difference is less than five years. The proposed changes represent a significant step forward in the effort to better protect minors and redefine consent laws in Japan.

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