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Age of adulthood being lowered in Japan…at what cost?

Starting in April 2022, an important law amendment will go into effect across Japan, which will lower the legal age of adulthood to 18 years old (it was formally 20 years old).

As a result, 18 and 19-year-olds will become the new "adults" in Japan.

This is significant because current 18 and 19-year-olds will no longer be able to take advantage of a “minor's right to rescind”, which is a law that makes provision for a minor to cancel or end a contract that was entered into without the consent of a parent or other adult.

This law change will have a direct effect on the number of young people who will likely become victims of being coerced into appearing in pornographic videos.

The following is a brief look at how young people often become victims of this scheme in Japan.

A contractor or individual who is producing adult videos will scout out young women and men (including those under the age of 18) on the street, internet, SNS, etc. Once they start to talk to them, they will pressure them to sign a contract for something seemingly harmless like a modeling shoot. However, once the contract is signed, they end up being filmed in a pornographic video instead. The young people are often unaware that they are being filmed for an adult video initially. However, by the time they realize what is happening, they find it very difficult to refuse the escalating demands of the party making the videos.

Additionally, even when the young person knows it is an adult video, they still may try to refuse being filmed in it once they realize that the actual content of the video is different than what they were first led to believe it was about. There are still other cases where a person is told that his or her face won’t be shown in the video, but it ends up being shown anyway, despite the young person voicing their objection about the video being sold on the internet. In both cases, since they have already signed a contract, they have to pay thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in penalty fees to break the contract, which further compounds the psychological pressure they are feeling.

Of course, young people in their teens and twenties often do not have the financial ability to pay such large sums of money, nor do they have the maturity or life experience to be able to judge the appropriateness of making such a payment. Additionally, they don’t want to trouble or bother their parents or peers at school, so they end up succumbing to the pressure and the videos are produced and sold on the internet. The youth are actually sexually assaulted during the filming sessions, but the videos are marketed to the public as if they are gladly and willingly performing the sexual acts. These terrible and serious human rights violations continue to go largely unnoticed and not spoken about in Japan.

Many of the women and men who have been victimized have suffered for many years with things like anthropophobia (a fear of meeting new people and interactions in normal society) and PTSD. These struggles stem from a fear of being filmed again or being concerned others may recognize them from the previous videos they were filmed in.

Prior to the establishment of this new law, 18 and 19-year-olds, including high school students, were still considered minors in society’s eyes. So even if they were victimized in this way, they could use their "right of rescission for minors" as a way to cancel the contract and escape harm without being charged a penalty. However, starting in April 2022, this will all change and an 18-year-old high school student who naively signs one of these contracts will no longer be able utilize the old law’s provision that protected minors. This in turn means it will become more and more difficult to stop the sales of these kinds of videos.

Video production companies and private scouts continue to target middle and high school students of both genders, who are particularly vulnerable and gullible to sign these mis-leading contracts. With this new law going into effect, high school students will be openly targeted and it makes it all the more urgent to have measures and support systems put in place that will protect the human rights of young people.

ZOE Japan will also continue to raise awareness about this issue. If you can think of anyone who has been victimized or who might be in trouble, please visit our consultation page and contact us.

Also, if you would like to learn more about trafficking victims in Japan, please watch the following video. (English subtitle)


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