Sexual assault laws to improve in Japan

Sexual assault laws to improve in Japan


Aysu Amaha Öztürk

Japan and Human Rights Researcher 

Global Human Rights Defence

A government panel in Japan has proposed to make changes in the national penal code for sexual assault victims to have better access to justice. It has been reported that this is due to a number of law cases that were highlighted as injustice (Yamamoto, 2023). Under the current law, a survivor must provide evidence that there was no consent and that there was assault or intimidation in the action of the perpetrator that made resisting impossible (Yamamoto, 2023). Many survivors have stated that these laws are unrealistic and that the second element is difficult to prove and to show as evidence. 

The panel has proposed to include a more narrow definition of what constituted forced sexual intercourse and lengthen the reporting period of the alleged crime (Yamamoto, 2023). They are also working sexual assault crimes over the internet or with the use of technology. This is yet another area Japan needs to improve on as peeping instances in Japan are very common and there is a need for national law (Yamamoto, 2023). Another important element of this proposal is raising the age of consent from 13 to 16 and criminalizing sexual activity with persons younger than 16. The proposed bill will be submitted to the Japanese government soon (Yamamoto, 2023). 

Japan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women  (CEDAW) in 1985. Article 2(f) of CEDAW requires state parties to take all appropriate measures, including modifying and abolishing regulations, laws, customs, and practices that discriminate against women (Ratification Status for Japan, 2023). Rape and sexual assault laws allegations are largely from women, thus, laws and regulations concerning these topics mostly effect women. This means that if Japan decides to change its laws, it will be taking yet another step to fully abide by the promises it has made through ratifying CEDAW, although topics such as consent age and reporting years need improvement. 

Sources and further reading:

Human Rights Bodies. Ratification Status for Japan. United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies Database.

Yamamoto S. (2023, February 16). Sexual assault laws under review in Japan. NHK News.