Crime & Justice

Japan pushes penal reform on sexual offenses, age of consent

Tokyo, Mar 14 (EFE).- Japan approved a draft reform Tuesday of the Penal Code on sexual crimes that includes recognizing sexual assaults in a state of unconsciousness or coercion as rape, also raising the age of consent from 13 to 16.

The amendment will lead to a new name of the crimes to make clear the criminality of non-consensual sexual relations and will convert into crimes punishable under the Penal Code conducts such as “upskirting” (taking pictures under skirts) and the production of images of genitalia without express consent.

It will also be punishable to provide or share such images.

The government hopes to approve the revision in the current parliamentary session. Its validity would begin 20 days after its promulgation.

The amendment will revise the circumstances under which a sexual act will be considered rape to include those in which it is difficult for a person to “formulate, express or carry out their intention to resist.” This includes being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or in a situation of submission due to abuse of economic or social power.

Japan carried out its first sexual crimes reform in 110 years in 2017, in which it changed the name of rape to “forced sexual intercourse” (which allowed, among other things, to recognize a male as a victim for the first time), but requires physical violence or coercion to be considered rape.

If the assault occurs “taking advantage of the loss of consciousness or inability to resist” of the victim, the legal term is “quasi forced sexual intercourse,” which has been allowing numerous cases to be indictable or result in acquittals.

The age of sexual consent in Japan has not been revised once in more than 115 years, since its promulgation in 1907, and it is one of the lowest among most developed nations.

Although the legal reform will make it a crime to have sexual relations with minors under 16 regardless of consent, it will contemplate an exception for cases in which an individual between 13 and 15 has sexual relations with a person less than five years older.

The amendment also contemplates the reform of the statute of limitations for these crimes. The validity period for non-consensual rape cases will be increased from 10 to 15 years, and from 15 to 20 years for assaults that result in injuries.

In the case of victims under 18 years of age at the time of the assault, the statute of limitations will not begin until they turn 18, the age of majority in the country from April 2022. EFE


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