Today, is the first day Japanese politicians will discuss punishments for sex crimes since 1907. Yes, you read that right- Japan’s rape laws haven’t changed in a century.
Former justice minister Midori Matsushima had promised tougher laws on sex crimes when she was elected in 2014, and now her successor Yoko Kamikawa is seeing this promise through. Pushing the issue through to the Diet (the country’s national legislature body). As well as tougher sentences, the revisions should eliminate some of the existing anachronisms. For example, a charge for the double crime of robbery and rape can only be filed if the robbery takes place before the rape. Which, is fucking archaic to say the least. However, the reforms suggested are still thoroughly outdated, and although they are positive, they don’t go nearly far enough.
The current legislation has several controversial aspects. Firstly, the definition of rape is limited to vaginal penetration. Secondly, the minimum sentence is three years, burglary is five- let’s just let that sink in. Thirdly, the legislation defines rape as a crime occurring between a man and a woman, thus male victims and women who have been raped by women aren’t protected by the law. Moreover, the law on rape states that visible proof (by injury or wound) must be presented to the police for the crime to be considered as rape. Thus, non-physical coercion and threats that don’t leave a physical mark behind are overlooked.
This is extremely dangerous, as sex crimes involving the manipulation of young adults and teenagers is ignored. Which, is made even more concerning when you take into consideration that the age of consent set out in the country’s penal code is just 13. Making it the lowest age of consent found in any developed country. For comparison’s sake, the UK raised the age of consent from 13 to 16 in 1885.
Another key revision would permit prosecutors to charge alleged rapists without the victim having to file a criminal complaint, as is currently required. Moreover, the new laws will broaden the definition of rape- permitting men to be classified as rape victims. Added to this, the minimum term for rape will be raised from three to five, with rape resulting in death increasing to six.
Change is on the horizon it seems. We’ll be watching how this progresses closely.
For more insight into the culture of sexualisation of young girls in Japan, watch the latest episode of Stacey Dooley Investigates on BBC iPlayer HERE.