Japan redefines rape and raises age of consent in landmark move

Japan has passed laws that redefine rape and raise the age of consent in a landmark overhaul of sex crime laws.

The definition of rape was broadened to “non-consensual sexual intercourse” from “forcible sexual intercourse”, aligning Japanese law’s definition with other countries.

The legal age of consent, previously at only 13, has been raised to 16 years.

Previous laws did not protect those coerced into having sex and deterred reporting of such attacks, critics say.

They have also led to inconsistent court decisions, fuelling calls for change.

The new laws were passed by the upper house of the Diet – Japan’s parliament – on Friday. They explicitly outline eight scenarios where it is difficult for a victim to “form, express, or fulfil an intention not to consent” to sexual intercourse.

These include situations where the victim is intoxicated with alcohol or drugs; or subject to violence or threats; or is “frightened or astonished”. Another scenario appears to describe an abuse of power, where the victim is “worried” of the consequences of refusal.

This is only the first time Japan has changed its age of consent since its enactment in 1907.