Penal Code Revision Must Lead to the Prevention of Despicable Crimes

Victims who are forced to engage in nonconsensual sexual intercourse suffer terrible psychological damage. This must be an opportunity to instill in society the awareness that sexual violence is unacceptable.

A revised Penal Code with drastic changes to the provisions of sexual crimes has come into effect. The crime of “forcible sexual intercourse” is now termed “nonconsensual sexual intercourse” under the revised law. The requirements for grounds to impose criminal penalties have also been clearly spelled out.

Previously, a sexual crime involved assaulting and threatening someone, making it extremely difficult for them to resist. However, there have been many cases in which victims were unable to move through fear or were unable to resist due to their relationship with the perpetrators, even if they involve no assaults or threats.

In response to criticism that the requirements for the establishment of the crime were unclear, the revised law makes it possible to charge perpetrators if victims were unable to express their will not to consent due to alcohol or drugs, physical abuse, or abuse of social positions, among other reasons. The statute of limitations has also been extended from 10 years to 15 years.

Sexual violence is sometimes referred to as “murder of the soul” because of its devastating effects on the victim’s body and mind. The revision of the law must lead to the prevention of despicable crimes.

The revision came in the wake of a series of acquittals of sexual violence cases in 2019. A father who was accused of sexually abusing his daughter for years was also acquitted. “Flower demonstrations” against sexual violence spread across the country.

Needless to say, sexual intercourse without consent is unacceptable. In Japan, there have been many cases in which people attempted to have relations with others without sufficiently confirming consent. This has been a hotbed for trouble. It is vital to respect the personality of the other party and make an effort to communicate carefully.

On the other hand, the requirements for the establishment of the crime under the revised Penal Code do not necessarily cover all cases. Cases in which it is difficult for a third party to determine the relationship between suspected perpetrators and victims can be anticipated. It will be essential to carefully assess backgrounds and circumstances during investigations and trials.

A new crime has also been established to punish the “sexual grooming” of children for the purpose of indecency. A person who requests to meet with people under 16 years old by threatening or lying to them with the intent of molestation will face up to one year in prison or a fine of up to ¥500,000.

Children are often sexually victimized by unacquainted people whom they got to know through social media. Some perpetrators might approach children pretending to offer advice about their worries. If such cases are detected before perpetrators actually meet victims, it would work as crime deterrent significantly.

Children’s summer holidays are approaching. The hope is that families will keep a close eye on children to see if they are behaving in unusual ways. If there are any signs of harm, parents should not hesitate to speak to the police.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2023)