On Friday, 16 June 2023, Japan's parliament approved raising the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16. The previous age limit has been in place for more than 100 years, and was not only outdated compared to other developed nations, but more importantly, made it very difficult for the police to identify victims of child sexual exploitation, allowing perpetrators to go unpunished.
In addition, Japan also redefined rape as “nonconsensual sexual intercourse”. Previously, victims had to prove that the perpetrator used violence and threats that made them unable to resist. This created a dangerous situation where the burden of proof was on victims to demonstrate that they resisted the perpetrator strongly enough for it to be considered rape. The new definition now includes 8 scenarios such as being assaulted while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, intimidation and fear.
Voyeurism, including production, distribution or possession of sexually exploitative photos or videos (taken without consent) are now also banned. This is very welcome news considering the increase in reports about hidden cameras in restrooms, gyms and hot springs, chikan* taking videos of their victims on trains, or perpetrators secretly taking photos or videos when exploiting a child sexually through papakatsu/mamakatsu (sugaring) activities.
Finally, the grooming of children for sexual exploitation is now a criminal offense (referred to as a visitation request offense). This will empower police to crack down even more aggressively on perpetrators that are grooming children through social media, online games or even in-person.
We are so grateful to the Japanese government for approving these changes, and for the multitude of organizations and individuals, including JNATIP, who have been advocating for these policy reforms for years.