News Update


In a historic step, Japan redefines rape and raises the age of consent.

In an unprecedented revision of sex crime legislation, Japan has passed rules that redefine rape and raise the consent age.

Rape was widened from “forcible sexual intercourse” to “non-consensual sexual intercourse,” harmonizing Japanese law with other countries’ definitions.

Previous legislation, opponents argue, did not protect victims pressured into having sex and discouraged reporting of such attacks.

They’ve also resulted in inconsistencies in court decisions, fueling calls for reform.

On Friday, the upper chamber of Japan’s parliament, the Diet, enacted the new law. It expressly states eight instances in which a victim finds it impossible to “form, express, or fulfill an intention not to consent” to sexual intercourse.

These include instances in which the victim is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, is subjected to aggression or threats, or is “frightened or astonished.” Another scenario appears to illustrate a power abuse in which the victim is “worried” about the implications of refusing.

The legal age of consent, which was previously set at 13 and was among the lowest among developed countries, has been raised to 16 years. A person who has intercourse with a minor aged 13 to 15 will, however, be penalised only if the offender is five years or older than the minor.

This is only the second time Japan has modified its consent age since it was established in 1907.

Meanwhile, the statute of limitations for reporting rape will be increased from 10 to 15 years to provide survivors more time to come forward.

New rules enacted on Friday also prohibit “photo voyeurism,” which includes, among other things, upskirting and secret filming of sexual conduct.

Following a global outcry over repeated rape acquittals in 2019, Japan has been considering several penal code reforms to enhance legislation against sex crimes.

The nationwide Flower Demo campaign against sexual violence began the same year. Since April 2019, activists in Japan have gathered on the 11th of every month to demand justice and demonstrate sympathy with sexual assault survivors.


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