Japan raises national age of consent to 16, criminalizes voyeurism

It has long been common to see claims that Japan’s age of consent was just 13, which would lead to lazy generalizations that this was why there was so much loli porn.

Of course, in practice, this was never true: local ordinances against lewd actors with minors meant the actual age of consent was typically 18 and on par with (if not higher than) most other countries in the Global North.

It was true, though, that the national age of consent was 13, unchanged since 1907. (For context, age of consent is 14 in Germany, Italy, and China, and 15 in France.)

This has now changed after lawmakers passed reforms to sex crime legislation last week — a change that has been long mooted by politicians and comes after protests and campaigning by activists over Japan’s relatively light punishment for rape.

The new national age of consent in Japan is now 16.

What does this mean for consensual teenage sex when one or both of them are under the age of consent? If both partners are over 13 and less than five years apart, they won’t face prosecution, it seems.

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The reform includes a raft of criminalizations, including photographic voyeurism like upskirting and secretly filming sexual acts (not a crime until now).

The penalty for secretly filming private body parts, underwear, or sexual acts is up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to ¥3 million.

In an attempt to prevent acquittals for rape, the new reform also clarifies prosecution requirements for rape. Several acquittals in rape cases in 2019 sparked anger and protests.

The previous legislation meant that police and prosecutors had to prove a rape victim was incapacitated due to violence and intimidation in order to prosecute a rapist. This was heavily criticized for effectively meaning that non-consensual sex was only prosecuted successfully as rape if survivors had not or were demonstrably unable to resist.

Now rape prosecutions can proceed if victims had been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if they had been intimidated or frightened, or if the perpetrator had taken advantage of a difference in social status.

The statute of limitations or legal window for reporting rape is also extended to 15 years from 10 years.

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  • KJ23 June 19, 2023

    well this quite very interesting changing it..🤔

  • Damon June 20, 2023

    Should have been done ages ago

  • anon June 21, 2023

    The altering of the AoC seems like a weirdly pointless change because it’s already illegal to have sex with anyone under 18 in Japan.

    The rape change is a good one, though.

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