A lawmaker in Japan was laughed at after highlighting how the new legal age of adulthood could lead to the exploitation of teenagers.
On March 28, Representative Ayaka Shiomura of the Constitutional Democratic Party proposed a bill aimed at protecting 18- and 19-year-olds from recruitment into the adult video industry during a session of the Japanese parliament.
Shiomura pleaded with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to take up her bill and debate on it but was mocked by her peers instead.
Footage of the incident, which highlighted the lack of female representation in the Japanese political landscape, has recently made the rounds on social media.
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Japan recently lowered the legal age of adulthood from 20 to 18 in a bid to provide more rights and responsibilities to young people and to encourage more civic participation.
The change, which took effect April 1, eliminated the requirement for parental consent for 18- and 19-year-olds to enter into contractual agreements. They can now also be tried as adults in criminal court. The legal age for drinking, smoking and gambling, however, remains 20.
In her proposal, Shiomura suggested that the new legal age of adulthood posed the risk of the adult film industry preying on those in the newly recognized adult age bracket.
Advocates have warned that the change has the potential to harm young adults if no protection is set in place. Accusations that the Japanese adult film industry targets teenage girls and coerces them into appearing in porn have also been heard at the Japanese parliament. During a meeting at the National Diet building on March 23, a former adult film actor shared that she was a college senior when she was pressured into appearing in adult videos. She asked the court to have her work scrapped from the market by upholding Article 5 of the Civil Law, which allows minors to cancel the sale of pornographic projects they’ve been contracted for without the consent of their parents.
Prior to the age amendment, parents were able to intervene on behalf of teens who were coerced into joining a film or who willingly joined but eventually changed their minds. Shiomura raised the idea in Parliament of allowing 18- and 19-year-olds to void their employment contracts for adult films. The move was supported by a group of 40,000 former adult film actors and sex workers who collectively submitted an online petition pushing for the clause that would allow 18- and 19-year-olds to void adult film contracts.
At the session in March, Shiomura’s bill was met with a lukewarm response from the prime minister, who told her the government will “closely monitor” it and “consider how to deal with the issue.”
Shiomura refused to back down and asked Kishida to “take this issue very seriously.”
The laughter came in response to Shiomura saying, “Hearing today’s discussions, I guess you’re holding off.”
The lawmaker then shot back: “Everyone, this is no laughing matter. It is an important issue. I hope that instead of laughing, we can work together on this.”
Shiomura is no stranger to misogynistic attacks in politics. In 2014, she faced similar heckling from an opposing party member while calling for support for pregnant women and young mothers in Tokyo. A member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly at the time, she was also interrupted by male members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party during a speech in which she discussed the conception of children out of wedlock.