Punishments for sex crimes may be revised in Japan for the first time since 1907
An advisory panel to the Japanese government has called for harsher punishments for sex crimes in what would be the first major revision to laws laid down in 1907.
As well as tougher sentences, the revisions should eliminate some of the anachronisms in the existing laws. At present, for example, a charge for the double crime of robbery and rape can only be filed if the robbery takes place before the rape.
The proposals for alterations to the criminal code have been submitted to Katsutoshi Kaneda, the justice minister, and a bill to approve the changes will be discussed in the Diet next year.
The recommendations include raising the minimum term for rape from three years at present to five years, with rape resulting in death likely to increase from a five-year term to six.
Critics insist it is unconscionable that the punishment for rape is presently lighter than the minimum five-year term for robbery.
Women have welcomed the proposals. Kanako Hosomura, a 44-year-old from Yokohama, said: “This is a positive development, but it is hard to believe that it has been so long since the laws were updated.
“Government should move at the same speed as our society.”
Another key revision would permit prosecutors to charge alleged rapists without a victim filing a criminal complaint, as is required at present. The new laws would also broaden the definition of the crime, permitting men to be classified as victims of rape.
Sex crimes receive a great deal of coverage in Japan’s tabloids, with the Asahi newspaper reporting on Tuesday the arrest of a professional dancer and four other men for producing child pornography after seducing more than 40 boys aged between 7 and 15. Police believe that the group may have abused more than 100 children.
There has also been criticism of the decision by prosecutors to drop rape charges against the son of a famous actress.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the reason why charges against 22-year-old actor Yuta Takahata of raping a maid at a hotel where he was staying in Gunma Prefecture on August 23.
Takahata’s lawyer told the media that an out-of-court agreement had been reached with the woman.
Takahata had previously admitted that he “could not contain my sexual desires” after the woman delivered a toothbrush to his room.