A group of university students in Japan have come together to file a petition that seeks to raise the country’s age of consent from 13 to 16.
The group, known as Your Voice Matters, gathered more than 40,000 signatures for the cause, which notes that 13 is too low from an international perspective.
Under Japanese law, an individual who engages in sex with someone under 13 can be arrested for statutory rape. This is the lowest age of consent of any developed country.
Meanwhile, charging a sex crime over an incident involving someone over 13 requires proof of violence. Additionally, the victim must explain the extent to which they resisted the assault.
However, some prefectures reportedly have local laws that raise the age of consent to 16 or 18, unless the individuals involved are in a “sincere romantic relationship.” Often, such relationships supposedly require parental consent. In Tokyo, for instance, the effective age of consent is 18.
The students submitted the petition to the Criminal Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice last Friday. In it, they argued that current curriculum guidelines for junior high school — where someone aged 13 would be in — do not call for teaching about sexual intercourse.
That being said, 13-year-olds may not be fully informed of what constitutes a sexual assault. By 16, students would have graduated from junior high school, and they are expected to be more aware of such realities.
“There were many people who signed the petition who also said they first realized what the consent age was through this effort,” a 21-year-old group member told the Asahi Shimbun. “It is important to raise the age of consent in order to protect minors who are still immature physically and psychologically from sex crimes in light of the fact sexual intercourse is not taught during compulsory education.”
Your Voice Matters thanked people for signing their petition.
“We are extremely grateful for your support and passion towards this campaign. We are also grateful that this campaign have enabled more people to recognize the importance of sexual consent and sexual injustice under the law,” the group said in an update. “We hope that our submission will help contribute in making a change within Japanese society.
Feature Image via Stephanie Hau