Japan is Finally Making Changes to a 100-Year-Old Rape Law

After being left unchanged for a hundred years, Japan is finally moving toward improving its archaic sex crime law.

Japanese parliament’s lower house has recently approved a bill that intends to broaden the definition of rape, which is limited to only to vaginal penetration by a penis, according to Reuters.

The amendment suggests a more inclusive “forced sexual intercourse”, adding forced anal and oral sex, and thus recognizing males as possible victims now.

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The revised law also seeks to make prison sentences longer with the minimum sentence raised to five years instead of just three.

Prosecution of a sex crime will also be granted even when victims fail to file charges as they would no longer be required to press charges themselves.

The revision also removes “violence or intimidation” as a requirement to convict parents or guardians who have sexually abused minors under the age of 18.

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Critics have expressed that the 1907 sex crime law has now become seriously outdated, with many activists and sex crime victims campaigning to have it amended for years.

Observers believe that such change could also improve society’s attitudes toward victims of sexual violence who still live in shame and fear after they are victimized.

According to the government’s own data for 2014, just less than 5 % of rape victims sought any form of police assistance, while only about 33% told anyone about the crime, friends included.

“This is a chance to change the penal code after 100 years: a once in a century opportunity,” an online petition signed by more than 30,000 people stated.

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It added that the current law was introduced before women had the power to vote and was intended to protect “family honor and pedigree.”

The amendments proposed by the parliament’s lower house is now awaiting the approval of its upper chamber to have them officially enacted. 

While the current parliamentary session is set to end on June 18, observers have noted that an extension is possible if required.

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