Japan's Age of Sexual Consent Is No Longer 13

Definition of rape broadened in overhaul of sex crime laws
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2023 2:45 PM CDT
Japan Raises Age of Consent, Changes Definition of Rape
Japanese lawmakers stand as they approve an amended criminal law at the upper house in Tokyo Friday, June 16, 2023. Japan's Parliament on Friday raised the age of sexual consent to 16 from 13.   (Kyodo News via AP)

Japan has passed what campaigners say is a long overdue overhaul of its sex crime laws. The new laws broaden the definition of rape and raise the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16, though a person who has sex with a minor between 13 and 15 will only be prosecuted if they are at least five years older than the victim, the BBC reports. Before the change, the age of consent was among the lowest in the developed world, reports the Washington Post. It is 16 in most American states and Canada, and 14 in Germany and Italy. The new laws follow numerous controversial acquittals that led to activists gathering to demand change at "flower demonstrations" on the 11th day of every month, starting in April 2019.

The new laws define rape as "nonconsensual intercourse," removing a requirement for physical force to be involved before a crime can be prosecuted as rape, the New York Times reports. The laws describes eight "forced sexual intercourse" scenarios when it would be difficult for a victim to "form, express, or fulfill an intention not to consent," including intoxication, threats, or abuses of power. The new laws also crack down on "photo voyeurism," bringing in a nationwide law against taking or distributing sexually exploitative photos taken without a person's consent. The law replaces a patchwork of inconsistently enforced local laws, the Post reports.

Campaigners welcomed the new laws, though they said more needs to be done to deal with "distorted ideas" about sex and consent—and to change a culture in which only 6% of victims of sexual violence report the attack, according to a 2021 government survey. Lawyer Kazuko Ito, who has represented sexual assault victims, called the overhaul a "great step forward." "It is highly significant that the victims who have been excluded from justice are now within the scope of legal remedies and punishments," she said, per the Times. (More Japan stories.)

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