Japan Govt Panel Calls for Raising Consent Age to 16

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of a subpanel of the Justice Ministry’s Legislative Council discuss revisions of provisions regarding sexual offences under the Penal Code on Friday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press)—A Japanese government panel proposed Friday that the age of consent be raised from 13 to 16.

The criminal law subcommittee of the Legislative Council, which advises the justice minister, also sought making definitions more specific for the crimes of forcible sexual intercourse and indecent assault, in order to make it easier to build cases for such crimes and substantiate related charges in court.

The proposals were included in the outline for amending the Penal Code, drawn up by the subcommittee.

The Legislative Council is expected to approve the outline in mid-February and make a report on it for Justice Minister Ken Saito. The government hopes to enact the Penal Code revision during the ongoing session of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, which is slated to run through June 21.

Many developed countries set the age of consent at 14 to 16.

The outline calls for stipulating that, as in the current law, sexual intercourse with a person under 13 is illegal regardless of consent, while intercourse with a person aged 13 to 15 will be punished if the perpetrator is five or more years older. The narrower scope of punishment for intercourse with 13- to 15-year-olds reflects the subcommittee’s aim to decriminalize intercourse between those of the same age group.

The current Penal Code stipulates that acts of “assault or threat” must be used to constitute forcible sexual intercourse and indecent assault. These are interpreted as acts that make it extremely difficult for the victims to resist, and there have been cases in which perpetrators were found not guilty due to difficulties identifying resistance by victims.

A draft proposal released last October called for merging constructive forcible sexual intercourse with forcible sexual intercourse and constructive indecent assault with indecent assault. It said that perpetrators would be punished if they engage in sexual acts by making it difficult for victims to refuse, or taking advantage of the difficulty for the victim to refuse, through any of eight acts including assault or threat, causing mental or physical disorder and denying the victim the opportunity to refuse.

The draft proposal was amended after some members of the subcommittee pointed out that “victims may be perceived as having the obligation to express refusal.”

The proposed requirement for establishing cases for the sex crimes was changed to “making it difficult for the victim to form, express or fulfill the intention not to consent,” or taking advantage of such a situation.

The outline also called for extending the statute of limitations by five years for all sex crimes. For cases in which victims are younger than 18, the period until the victim turns 18 was proposed to be added to the statute of limitations. These moves reflected the fact that it is difficult for people to speak out about being victims of sex crimes.

In addition, the outline newly sought the establishment of the crime of secretly photographing and filming victims’ sexual body parts and underwear, as well as sexual intercourse. Providing such images to other people was also sought to be made punishable.

It called for punishing the grooming of victims under the age of 16 for acts of obscenity and clarifying that forcible sexual intercourse can be committed between spouses.