On Friday, the age of consent in Japan was raised to 16 years old, up from 13 years old, making it one of the highest in the world. Previously, Japan had one of the lowest ages of consent in the world.
The revisions, which also make the conditions for rape prosecution more explicit and criminalize voyeurism, were approved with a unanimous majority in the upper chamber of the parliament.
Campaigners expressed satisfaction with the amendments, with one organization, Human Rights Now, located in Tokyo describing them as “a significant advance.”
In particular, lowering the age of consent will “send a message to society that sexual violence by adults against children is unacceptable,” the organization stated in a statement. The statement was issued in response to the elevation of the age of consent.
The age of consent, which is defined as the age at which sexual conduct is no longer deemed to be statutory rape, ranges from 14 in Germany and China to 16 in France and Britain.
Since 1907, it had not been modified, and those who were 13 or older were considered capable of consenting to medical treatment.
However, in many regions of the nation, regional regulations that banned “lewd” actions with children were sometimes interpreted as effectively raising the age of consent to 18. This was the case since the age of consent had been raised to 18.
Teenage couples with an age gap of no more than five years between them will be immune from prosecution under the new rule provided both parties are older than 13 years old.
Although Japan’s criminal law on sexual offenses was updated in 2017 for the first time in more than a century, activists argue that the changes are not enough to adequately protect victims of sexual assault.
And in 2019, a series of not-guilty verdicts in rape cases led to demonstrations around the country.
Under the prior statute, the government had to provide evidence that victims had been rendered helpless as a result of physical or psychological abuse.
The rule, according to critics, implicitly placed blame on victims for not protesting vigorously enough.
– Making voyeurism a criminal offense – The measure that was approved on Friday includes a rundown of several scenarios in which rape charges may be brought.
Among these include the victim being under the influence of drink or drugs, the victim being afraid, and the offenders taking advantage of the victim’s social standing.
Earlier this year, an official from the justice ministry stated to AFP that the explanations were not “meant to make it easier or harder” to get convictions for rape, but rather “will hopefully make court verdicts more consistent.”
According to the ministry of justice, the proposed legislation also includes a brand new “visitation request offence.”
It implies that persons who use coercion, seduction, or money to persuade minors under the age of 16 to meet for sexual reasons would face a jail sentence of up to a year or a fine of 500,000 yen ($3,500), or both. If convicted of this offense, the offender will serve either punishment.
Voyeurism, which had previously only been regulated by local laws, is now criminalized for the very first time as a result of these amendments, which also contain new terminology.
If private body parts, undergarments, or indecent activities are surreptitiously filmed without a reasonable purpose, the perpetrator might face up to three years in jail or a fine of up to three million yen, or both.
Sohei Ikeda, 39, a resident of Tokyo, expressed his satisfaction with the reforms but believed that “Japan is quite late” in implementing them.
However, Natsuki Sunaga, a student who is 22 years old, expressed her skepticism regarding the efficacy of the revisions in preventing individuals from surreptitiously photographing others.
“I wonder if even with a law against voyeurism whether or not it will end,” she remarked. “I wonder.”