Japan implements major changes to “rape laws” and the “age of consent.”
Japan has recently implemented major legal reforms pertaining to rape and the age of consent, signifying a substantial transformation in sex crime legislation. The new laws expand the definition of rape to encompass “non-consensual sexual intercourse,” aligning Japan’s legal framework with international standards. Moreover, the age of consent has been raised from 13 to 16 years.
The previous laws faced criticism for their failure to safeguard individuals coerced into sexual activities and their discouragement of reporting such crimes. The “upper house” of Japan’s parliament, known as the Diet, has passed the new laws, which explicitly outline eight scenarios in which victims may struggle to express non-consent to “sexual intercourse.
This revision marks the first alteration in Japan’s age of consent since its establishment in 1907. Japan previously had one of the lowest ages of consent among developed nations. However, under the amended laws, engaging in sexual activity with a minor aged 13 to 15 will only be punishable if the perpetrator is at least five years older than the minor.
These legislative changes were prompted by the public outcry following multiple rape acquittals in 2019. They also coincide with the “Flower Demo campaign,” a nationwide movement against sexual violence, where activists have been gathering on the 11th day of each month since April 2019 to demand justice and show solidarity with survivors of “sexual assault.”
Despite these reforms, activists emphasise the significance of empowering survivors to report their assaults. In Japan, survivors often confront stigma and shame, resulting in a reluctance to come forward. A government survey in 2021 disclosed that only about 6% of women and men who experienced assault reported it, with half of the women citing “embarrassment” as a barrier.
Lawyer and rights advocate Sakura Kamitani stressed the need for Japan to offer more financial and psychological support to sexual assault survivors. Additionally, she emphasised the importance of providing assistance to offenders to prevent recidivism.
In conclusion, Japan’s recent legislative changes concerning rape and the age of consent represent a significant stride towards addressing the deficiencies of previous laws. By expanding the definition of “rape,” raising the “age of consent,” extending the “reporting period,” and prohibiting photovoyeurism, Japan aims to enhance the “protection of survivors” and “promote justice.” Nevertheless, it remains crucial to foster a supportive environment that encourages reporting and provides comprehensive assistance for the effective implementation of these reforms.