Japan aims to raise age of consent from 13 to 16 in sex crime overhaul

A woman holding a sign saying no means no

A panel of the Japanese Justice Ministry has proposed raising the age of consent from 13 to 16.

It forms part of a wider overhaul of Japan’s laws on sex crimes, after multiple rape acquittals in 2019 caused outcry.

The proposal also aims to criminalise the grooming of minors and expand the definition of rape.

The statute of limitations for reporting rape will also be increased to 15 from 10 years.

Currently, Japan has the lowest age of consent in developed countries, and the lowest in the G7 group.

In Germany and Italy the age is 14, in Greece and France it is 15 and in the UK and many US states it is 16.

The current law in Japan means victims of rape need to prove that there was “violence and intimidation” used during the rape and that it was “impossible to resist” to secure a conviction.

The panel has not changed this wording but instead added other factors including intoxication, drugging, being caught off guard and psychological control into the definition.

Justice Ministry official Yusuke Asanuma said that this “isn’t meant to make it easier or harder” for victims to win a rape case but that it should make verdicts “more consistent”.

The re-examination of the sex crime laws comes after widespread demonstrations in 2019 following a number of acquittals. One case saw a man go free after being accused of having sex with his teenaged daughter, even though the court agreed that it was against her will. He was later sent to prison after prosecutors appealed.

Another saw a man found not guilty of raping a woman who had passed out from drinking because he “misunderstood” that she consented to having sex.

The government could pass the law as early as summer. Despite the potential change to the age of consent, an exception will still exist for intercourse between people who are at least 13 and who have an age gap of less than five years.

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