A panel ordained by Japan’s justice ministry recommended raising the nation’s consent age from 13 to 16. Among others, the Asian country does have the lowest age of consent among the Group of Seven countries (G7) and has maintained that age since its inception more than a century ago
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This comes after the panel recommended a set of changes that would make it easier to prosecute cases of rape and make voyeurism a crime. Also, it would broaden the scope of rape and make it a crime to groom a minor.
What is the legal consent age?
When a person reaches the age of consent, they are legally allowed to make the choice to engage in sexual relations with another person without coercion. According to the UN, this effort is meant to shield young people from the damaging effects of sexually abusive behaviour and the setbacks that can result from initiating sexual relations at a young age.
It is illegal for an adult to have sexual contact with a minor who is under the state-established age of consent. When a minor agrees to sexual activity with an adult, it is still viewed as statutory rape because they are not of legal age to give their informed consent.
What are the current rules and regulations?
Japan currently has the lowest consenting age among developed economies, as children as young as 13 are considered adult enough to give their permission for sexual activity. Japanese laws make it unlawful for anyone over the age of 5 to have sexual contact with anyone under the age of 13, and it also makes it a crime for anyone over the age of 5 to have sexual relations with anyone between the ages of 13 and 15, irrespective of consent.
The nearest equivalent Japan has to a consenting age of 18 is the prohibition on “vulgar” acts with minors, which has been enacted in several regions across the country.
An activist against pornographic content and sexual exploitation named Kazuna Kanajiri told Reporters that although these laws exist, they do not result in severe punishment and have much lighter punishments than rape charges, as well as labelling sex with children “immoral” behaviour as opposed to a crime.
Furthermore, the leader of a Tokyo-based organization called PAPS has claimed that the current law would allow offenders to “deflect responsibility to the victims, and contend that sex was undertaken or enjoyed by the kids.”
Furthermore, since the age requirement for consent is low, adolescent rape victims are subjected to the same standards as adults when prosecuting offenders. In order to obtain a guilty verdict under the prevailing Japanese criminal law, the victim must satisfy two requirements.
The sex must have been non-consensual and the public prosecutor must show that the rapist used “threats and violence” and that the victim was “impossible to escape,” which is often cited as one of the most contentious parts of the law.
Why did this change happen?
Because of rising concerns that the current legal framework does not adequately protect vulnerable children from assault and other sexual offences, a reform initiative has been recommended. Notably, Japan has maintained its legal age of consent at 19 since 1907. However, massive protests in 2019 followed numerous acquittals.