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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 June 14 - 20  > Diet approves bill to toughen penalties for sexual crimes
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2017 June 14 - 20 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Diet approves bill to toughen penalties for sexual crimes

June 17, 2017
A bill to toughen penalties for sexual crimes was passed and enacted at the plenary session of the House of Councilors on June 16. All parties including the Japanese Communist Party voted for the bill. This is the first amendment in 110 years.

Prior to the plenary session, at an Upper House Judicial Affairs Committee meeting, JCP lawmaker Nihi Sohei expressed his support for the bill which will broaden the range of legally punishable acts. Nihi, however, argued that the range should be even wider than the proposed revision. Noting that the bill obliges the government to consider making improvements to the Criminal Code three years after the revision takes effect, the JCP lawmaker proposed to invite sexual assault survivors and their supporters to speak before the committee after the law’s enactment in order to further refine the law.

Current provisions in the Criminal Code define “rape” as an act of forcing a woman to have sex by using violence and/or threat. The revised provision will not assume that a rape victim is a woman. In addition, rape will become punishable with imprisonment of five years or more (formerly three years or more) and indictable without a complaint filed by victims.

Furthermore, the bill is to charge a new crime in regard to sexual offenses by guardians. For example, if a parent sexually abuses his/her child regardless of whether threat/violence was used, he/she will face a criminal charge.

At the committee meeting, Yamamoto Jun who was abused by her father for seven years during childhood testified as an unsworn witness. She pointed out that the bill should have been designed to make punishable all sexual abuses both with and without coercion. She explained that when she was thirteen years old, her father started to molest her. Yamamoto said that her father did not threaten or hit her, but she was unable to resist the act because she froze with shock, having no idea what was going on. Yamamoto argued that similar to other developed nations, Japan’s law should criminalize sexual activity that occurs without explicit consent.
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