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Japan Raises Age of Sexual Consent to 16, Reforms Continue Slowly

by Ryan Lee
4 comments
sexual consent age

Japan’s parliament made a significant change on Friday by raising the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16. This adjustment, which had remained untouched for over a century and was one of the lowest globally, came in response to calls for improved protection for children and women.

The modification is part of a comprehensive overhaul of laws related to sex crimes. Additionally, Parliament passed a new law to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues. However, activists criticized this law for falling short of guaranteeing equal rights for sexual minorities.

In a country where men have long dominated the legislative and judicial branches, reforms aimed at providing greater protection for sexual crime victims and imposing stricter punishments on offenders have progressed slowly.

Japan had not revised its criminal code on sexual crimes for 110 years until 2017. The public outcry following a series of acquittals in sexual abuse cases and the increasing instances of non-consensual sexual images of girls and women led to the current revisions.

The recent changes categorize sexual intercourse with individuals under the age of 16 as rape. The law identifies eight scenarios of “consentless sex crimes,” a new term denoting forced sexual intercourse, including instances where the victim is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, coerced by fear or intimidation.

Furthermore, the new laws prohibit the filming, distribution, and possession of sexually exploitative images obtained without consent.

The statute of limitations for sex crimes has been extended by five years, allowing a 10-year period for prosecuting consentless sexual intercourse. Perpetrators of this crime can now face up to 15 years in prison, while “photo voyeurism” is punishable by a maximum of three years’ imprisonment.

These changes were prompted, in part, by a case in Nagoya where a court acquitted a father who raped his 19-year-old daughter, ruling that her lack of consent did not involve violent resistance. This verdict sparked nationwide protests.

However, the new LGBTQ+ law has generated concerns among activists, as last-minute alterations seemingly catered to opponents of transgender rights, thereby threatening the LGBTQ+ community instead of promoting equality.

Unlike the other Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, Japan lacks LGBTQ+ legal protections. While support for same-sex marriage and other rights has increased among the Japanese public, the governing Liberal Democratic Party, known for its conservative values and hesitance to endorse gender equality and sexual diversity, still faces strong opposition.

The final version of the law acknowledges that “unjust discrimination” is unacceptable, but it does not explicitly ban discrimination. It vaguely states that conditions should be established for “all citizens to live with peace of mind,” leading activists to believe that the governing party prioritized the concerns of equal rights opponents over the rights of sexual minorities.

Minori Tokieda, a transgender woman, expressed her deep concern, stating, “The law fails to recognize our struggles and instead appeases those who cause us harm. I am deeply troubled by how the law portrays us as if our mere existence threatens people’s sense of safety.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about sexual consent age

What is the age of sexual consent in Japan?

The age of sexual consent in Japan has been raised to 16 from 13. This change comes after more than a century with one of the world’s lowest ages of consent.

What prompted the revision of laws related to sex crimes in Japan?

The revision of laws related to sex crimes in Japan was prompted by a series of acquittals in sexual abuse cases and the growing instances of non-consensual sexual images taken of girls and women without their consent. These incidents triggered public outrage and the need for stronger protection for victims.

Has Japan made any progress in protecting sexual crime victims and punishing assailants?

Reforms in Japan aimed at providing greater protection for victims of sexual crimes and imposing stricter punishment on assailants have been progressing slowly. The country revised its criminal code on sexual crimes for the first time in 110 years in 2017, but further changes have been needed to address the concerns and demands of the public.

What changes have been made to address consentless sex crimes in Japan?

The recent changes in Japan’s laws on sex crimes categorize sexual intercourse with individuals below the age of 16 as rape. The law also specifies eight scenarios of “consentless sex crimes,” including situations where the victim is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, coerced by fear or intimidation. These changes aim to provide a legal framework for prosecuting such offenses.

What protections have been put in place regarding sexually exploitative images?

The new laws in Japan ban the filming, distribution, and possession of sexually exploitative images taken without consent. This helps to prevent the further victimization of individuals through the non-consensual distribution or possession of explicit images.

Has Japan made progress in LGBTQ+ rights?

While Japan has passed a law to increase awareness of LGBTQ+ issues, activists have criticized it for not guaranteeing equal rights for sexual minorities. Japan remains the only member of the Group of Seven industrialized nations without LGBTQ+ legal protections. Support for LGBTQ+ rights has grown among the Japanese public, but opposition remains within the governing Liberal Democratic Party, known for its conservative values and hesitance to promote gender equality and sexual diversity.

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4 comments

JohnDoe42 June 17, 2023 - 2:28 pm

japan’s slow progress on reforms shows how hard it is to change old attitudes. but at least they’re movin in the right direction now.

Reply
LindaG June 17, 2023 - 7:52 pm

bout time japan updated their laws on sex crimes. hope they keep goin & make it safer for victims & punish the perps harder!

Reply
Bob89 June 17, 2023 - 9:46 pm

wow, japan raises age of sexual consent! abt time they did smthg abt that, 13 was way too low! hope it helps protect kids & women.

Reply
Emma23 June 17, 2023 - 10:42 pm

the LGBTQ+ law in japan is a step forward, but still not enough. everyone should have equal rights, no matter who they love or how they identify!

Reply

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