A commission of the Japanese Ministry of Justice has proposed raising the age of consent from 13 to 16, i.e. the threshold below which it is considered that the minor or minor cannot have consented to the sexual act. Japan has the lowest age of consent among the G7 countries, and the article of law that determines it has never been changed in over 100 years. The commission’s proposal is part of a broader review of what can be considered rape: for now, however, it is only the basis for the discussion that is expected to take place in parliament by the end of the year.
Rules determining the age of consent and sexual offenses in Japan are part of the criminal code that dates back to 1907. Under the current law, which has been in effect since then, it is assumed that people aged 13 are capable of giving their consent for sexual acts.
In addition to raising the age of consent to 16, the same threshold in force in the United Kingdom and most of the United States (in China, Germany and Italy it is 14, in France 15), the commission proposes to expand the definition of rape.
Currently, to prove that a rape has been committed it is not enough to demonstrate that consent was withheld, but it must also be demonstrated that the person who committed it used “violence and intimidation” to prevent the victim from resisting. The new proposal adds other cases that could constitute a crime of rape, for example if a person is forced to take alcohol or drugs or undergoes a form of psychological control. The commission also proposes extending the statute of limitations for rape complaints from 10 to 15 years.
The commission’s recommendations stem from discussions and protests sparked in 2019 by a series of controversial acquittals for rape of minors. Two years earlier, the law relating to sexual offenses had been changed to better clarify some points and increase the minimum sentence for rape from 3 to 5 years, but the changes had been deemed insufficient by public opinion.
Now civil rights organizations have welcomed the commission’s proposal. In various parts of Japan there are already local laws prohibiting “obscene” acts with minors and are in fact considered informally as laws setting the age of consent at 18; however these laws do not explicitly refer to rape and provide for much lighter penalties. If the commission’s proposals were accepted by parliament, an exception would still remain in force for couples in which both people are at least 13 years old and the age difference with the partner is less than 5 years.
Leave a Reply