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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
21 Feb 2023

NextImg:Japan Mulls Raising Age of Consent to 16 After Public Outrage on Rape Acquittals

The Japanese government has proposed raising the country’s legal age of consent for sex from 13 to 16 years old after the acquittal of multiple sexual offenders in 2019 sparked public outrage.

A panel of the Justice Ministry submitted the proposal on Friday, which clarifies eight acts that constitute the victim’s lack of consent, including intoxication, drug use, abuse of power, and psychological control.

The proposed changes would outlaw sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16, but there would be an exception for intercourse between people who are at least 13 and those with an age gap of fewer than five years.

The legislation council also proposed making it illegal to “secretly film” someone’s undergarments and distribute the resulting photographs, Kyodo News reported.

The panel also recommended extending the statute of limitations for rape from 10 years to 15 years and for indecent assault resulting in injury from 15 years to 20 years.

Japan has the lowest age of consent among developed nations since its enactment in 1907. The age of consent in Germany and China is 14, 15 in France, and 16 in South Korea and most U.S. states.

Legislators revised Japan’s century-old rape law in 2017 to include harsher penalties and other changes. But the reforms left intact controversial requirements that prosecutors must prove that violence or intimidation was involved or that the victim was “incapable of resistance.”

A series of acquittals has revived outrage over that legal standard, which critics say places an unfairly high burden on victims, deterring them from coming forward and hurting their chances in court if they do.

They say the law must be revisited to make all non-consensual sex a crime, without exception, as it is in other developed countries such as Britain, Germany, and Canada.

In June 2019, sexual abuse victims and their supporters rallied in nine cities around Japan while holding flowers and placards with slogans such as #MeToo and #WithYou to protest against court acquittals of alleged rapists and urge reform of the nation’s anti-rape law.

“Discussing sexual violence from the victim’s viewpoint is a world trend, and it’s time to reform the Japanese legal system and society that cannot do that,” said Minori Kitahara, an author and activist who was among the organizers of protests in 2019.

The #MeToo movement has been mostly subdued in Japan, and only 2.8 percent of sexual assault victims tell police, often for fear of being blamed themselves and publicly shamed.

Many tell no one at all. A 2017 report by the government’s gender equality bureau showed nearly 60 percent of female victims of forced sex kept it to themselves.

Behind the legal burden, experts say, is a traditional view that women are responsible for protecting their chastity. Japan’s rape law was introduced before women could vote and its main intent was to protect family honor and pedigree, legal experts say.

“The idea is women must resist to the very limit. That is at the heart of this kind of ruling,” Tomoko Murata, a lawyer who handles sexual assault cases, told Reuters.

“And there is still the view that ‘No means Yes.’ It is not yet the common view that a woman’s agreement is necessary before having sex,” Murata added.

In March 2019, a court in Nagoya acquitted a father accused of raping his 19-year-old daughter. The judges concluded there was no evidence as to whether she had been unable to resist but the ruling was later overturned in 2020 by a high court which sentenced the man to 10 years in prison.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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