Politician’s comments open a box of worms on consent

In late July, it was reported that at a closed-door meeting of the Democratic Constitutional Party of Japan (CDP) called to discuss raising the age of consent from 13 to 16, lawmaker Hiranao Honda said that as a man in his fifties, he thought it “strange” that he could be arrested if he had sex with a 14-year-old girl who consented to the relationship. The reaction was swift and harsh, and although the CDP punished Honda and planned to do something more in response to public outrage, it left the party and its seat.

On August 9, Mainichi Shimbun published an article analyzing the Honda scandal. Currently, any adult who has sex with a child under 13 is guilty of rape, but if the child is 13 or over, they must prove that they could not resist the advances of the adult. so that the adult is punished. Although the age of consent in Japan has remained the same for over 110 years, the case did not receive much attention until 2019, when a Nagoya district court acquitted a man of rape. of her teenage daughter because she was past the age of consent. The Nagoya High Court later overturned the decision and sentenced the man to 10 years, but as long as the age of consent remains unchanged, it is difficult to prosecute adults for having sex with men. teenagers.

In the article, Mainichi interviewed a woman in her 40s from western Japan. When her daughter was 13, the woman said, she was sexually abused by her father. However, unlike the Nagoya case, at the time the alleged abuse took place, the father was not married to the mother. They were divorced.

The mother was granted sole custody of the couple’s two children, but allowed her ex-husband to visit the daughter on occasion. After learning that he was verbally abusive towards the girl, she forbade all further contact. Then, a few years ago, when the girl was 13, he asked her if he could bring her to an event at his workplace. The mother thought it would be OK because there would be a lot of people around.

Afterwards, she noticed that her daughter was acting strangely. As it turned out, on the way home, the ex-husband had touched her in a way that made her uncomfortable and tried to kiss her. The mother called the police, who told her that the daughter, since she was over the age of consent, would have to prove that she had tried to resist if the ex-husband were to be convicted of sexual assault.

In 2017, the government expanded the scope of sex crimes laws to include punishment for indecent acts against persons under the age of 18 committed by parents or legal guardians, but as the mother was not No longer married to her daughter’s biological father, there was no legal “parental” relationship between the two, so this new provision did not apply.

Nonetheless, police summoned the ex-husband on suspicion of violating a local ordinance banning sex when one of the parties is under 18. The father dismissed the charge saying he was showing normal paternal affection towards his daughter, implying that there was nothing sexual about it. But even if the police had deemed the contact inappropriate, the only sanction would have been a fine.

A prosecutor told the mother that under the current law there was nothing she could do and advised her to formally get her ex-husband to agree never to contact the girl again, which he said. did. The case was closed. The mother is still angry and told the Mainichi that if the age of consent was higher, the ex-husband could have been prosecuted as a sex offender. The girl, meanwhile, remains traumatized and still receives advice. The mother asked the girls’ high school her daughter attends not to be placed in classes with male teachers.

Mainichi’s article attempts to explain Honda’s thinking, as it is seen as indicative of the broader attitude toward sex that has kept the age of consent at 13 for so long. This attitude maintains that “genuine love” between an adult and a teenager is “possible”, so such “exceptions” must be taken into account. The article also states that while Honda’s remark outraged people, it at least led to an open discussion on the matter.

In an August 4 opinion piece for Asahi Shimbun, editor-in-chief Akiko Okazaki condemns this analysis. She is “horrified” that the age of consent is still 13, especially in an environment where young people have become so vulnerable to sexual exploitation on the Internet. According to a report released by the Justice Department in May, there is no consensus on the age of consent, presumably because circumstances and sensitivities differ from case to case, so 13 years old is still considered an appropriate age limit. France, for example, has just revised its own laws to ensure that sexual relations between a minor (under 16) and an adult are not rape if the age difference is five years or less.

Aside from the charge that adults, regardless of their “feelings,” automatically wield power over their partners when they have sex with minors, Okazaki sees no consistency in Japan’s legal policy vis-à-vis. live such interactions. Physical conflict between husbands and wives was once considered part of marital dynamics, but it can now be characterized as domestic violence. What was once considered a slight innuendo in the office is now sexual harassment. When the age of consent was first codified in 1907, compulsory education ended after six years of elementary school. By the age of 13, many children were already working, but this is no longer the case. There is no reason, if any, to keep the age of consent at 13.

See www.philipbrasor.com for addenda to Media Mix contributions.

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