Japan raises age of consent from 13 but reforms fall well short of international standards

Japan raises age of consent from 13 but reforms fall well short of international standards

Consent - Image CGN089 / Shutterstock.com

Japan is to review the age of consent which currently is among the lowest in the world at 13 as it undertakes a major review of sex crime legislation.

The package of reforms reported by the news site France 24 on February 17 is said to bring about a number of major reforms including providing more clarity on rape prosecution requirements and the criminalisation of voyeurism.

Enacted in 1907, calls have come for the age of consent to change after a series of rape acquittals that caused public outrage.

If approved the age of consent will be raised to 16 in line with UK and above that of France (15), Germany and China (14).

With the age of consent at 13 prosecutors struggle to charge rapists as such cases are not considered statutory rape. In some regions, local ordinances allow for perpetrators to be charged with conducting “lewd” acts. But these come with lesser charges and only see sex with youngsters as “unethical” according to Kazuna Kanajiri, an activist fighting pornography and sexual exploitation, who was speaking to AFP news.

Kanajiri said this allows offenders to “shift blame to the victims, and argue that sex was initiated or enjoyed by the children.”

Campaigners have criticised the proposed changes as not going far enough, although the reforms are the first in more than a century.

One of the areas of concern is the need for prosecutors to prove the victim resisted enough, but survivors say when there is a threat of violence people often freeze or submit to avoid injury. The reforms don´t remove that wording but clarify that it covers drugging, catching victims off-guard and psychologically controlling them.

Yusuke Asanuma, a Justice Ministry official, said the clarification “isn’t meant to make it easier or harder” to secure rape convictions, but “will hopefully make court verdicts more consistent.” Campaigners say that falls well below international rape legislation standards. .

Advocacy group Human Rights Now issued a statement saying Japan should redefine “the crime of rape as all non-consensual sexual intercourse.”

Among the more accepted changes are a new offence covering the secret filming of someone for sexual purposes and the lengthening of the statute of limitations for sexual violence against minors.

Campaigners and victims alike have welcome Japan´s move to raise the age of consent from 13 but have criticised the reforms around rape saying they fall well short of international standards.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Author badge placeholder
Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.