Komeito backs changes to toughen 100-year-old sex crimes law

June 18 , 2017

At their plenary session on June 18, the House of Councillors unanimously approved a set of revisions aimed at toughening the law on sex crimes. Changes include stricter sentences for crimes such as rape and indecent assault, expanding the definition of rape to recognize males as also being possible victims, and making the crimes prosecutable even if victims do not file a complaint.

This is the first time the sex crimes law has been revisited since 1907. Komeito has long supported the effort to impose stricter penalties for sex crimes and has continued to hold discussions with civil society groups supporting survivors of sexual violence.

Whereas the law previously defined rape as being perpetuated on a female, limiting the victims to females and characterizing all other sexual acts as “indecent assault,” the new amendment suggests the more inclusive definition of “forced sexual intercourse,” effectively recognizing males as also being possible victims of rape. Changes have also been made to raise minimum sentences for rape from three to five years, and to raise the minimum sentence for rape resulting in death or injury from five to six years.

Also criminalized will be parents or guardians who sexually abuse children under the age of 18 who are in their care even in the absence of coercive acts. The revision is aimed at imposing heavier punishments on those who would have otherwise been charged with lighter sentences such as violating the Child Welfare Law. Civil society groups fighting sexual abuse have long petitioned for this change because previously the decision to charge guardians with this crime was left to the discretion of the victims.

In the context of the revised definition of rape as “forced sexual intercourse” that no longer limits the victim to females, an accompanying resolution was enacted stipulating that the victims of such crimes would not be discriminated against based on their gender or sexual orientation, be they males or sexual minorities.