(CMR) Japan's parliament passed legislation on Friday to change laws that said children as young as 13 were old enough to consent to sexual activities and allowed rape conviction only when the victim tried to fight back.
These century-old laws were part of a troubling culture where survivors rarely reported assaults, and assailants usually go unpunished.
The new laws redefine rape as nonconsensual sexual intercourse, removing the provisions regarding the use of force and raising the age of consent from 13 to 16.
The changes resulted from over four years of protests, known as the Flower Demo, that decried sexual violence and acquittals in rape cases, NPR reported.
A March 2021 survey by Japan's Gender Equality Bureau found that one in 14 women had been raped or sexually assaulted in Japan, with less than half of survivors reporting the crime.
According to NPR, much of Japanese law related to sexual assault dates back to 1907, and before Friday's historic changes, the country's antiquated penal code narrowly categorized rape as forcible sexual intercourse, meaning prosecutors had to prove that violence or intimidation was involved, or that the victim was unable to resist.
But that definition largely ignored the complex reality that many victims are too afraid, shocked,d or incapacitated from drugs or alcohol to refuse, advocates found.
The legislation passed on Friday revises the definition of rape to recognize nonconsensual sexual acts such as assaults under the influence of alcohol, drugs, fear, or intimidation. They also extended the window of time a survivor can report a rape from 10 to 15 years.