It has been learned that regarding the criminal code that prohibits sex with minors under age 13 across the board, a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) had made repeated remarks condoning sex between an adult and a junior high school student. He made the remarks at a meeting of the party’s “working team on revisions to the criminal code involving sexual offense” to discuss raising the current age limit. The working team had initially planned to finalize a report that calls for banning sex with junior high school students or younger minors on June 7 but shelved the idea.
According to several sources close to the matter, House of Representatives member Honda Hiranao (56 years old, elected from Hokkaido proportional representation electoral district) said at a meeting held on May 10 that “it is absurd that I would be arrested if I, close to 50 [sic], had sex with a 14-year-old even if it were consensual.” At another meeting held later that month, he reportedly argued that “a 12-year-old could be seriously in love with someone in their 20s.” He also noted that “Japan’s age of consent is not low compared with other countries.”
The “age of consent” is regarded as the minimum age at which a person is capable of giving consent to have sex. In Japan, the criminal code bans sexual acts with minors who are under age 13. This has remained unchanged for over 100 years, and this low age limit is drawing international attention. The wider use of mobile phones and social networking media is making minors more vulnerable to sexual abuse. The CDPJ has been arguing for raising the age so that sex with minors “under age 16” would be banned.
Osaka University Professor Shimaoka Mana, who specializes in the criminal code, told Asahi Shimbun: “I was appalled when I heard the remarks. (Having sex with a junior high school student) is an act of sexual exploitation. He should have emphasized that such an act can be regarded as a criminal offense.” Professor Shimaoka was at the May 10 meeting where Honda made the remark.
On June 7, CDPJ Secretary-General Fukuyama Tetsuro told reporters that “since the person retracted the comment, that should be the end of the matter” and did not disclose who made the comment. On the night of the same day, however, he issued a statement saying that the party gave (Honda) a severe verbal warning.” On the evening of June 7, Honda released a comment saying that: “Several remarks [that I have made] at the party’s meeting have been reported in the media. I deserve criticism for my insufficient understanding of the issue and for the potential of the media coverage to hurt some people. I will reflect deeply on this and will deepen my knowledge. Regarding revisions to the criminal code involving sexual crimes, it is true that the relationship between a minor in junior high school and an adult is not a relationship between equals and is in the nature of sexual exploitation. On the basis of that truth, I acknowledge the need to subject adults to punishment to protect children of younger ages. In debating criminal punishments, I thought careful consideration was needed to study extreme cases and the existence of unique exceptional cases. However, my comment was inappropriate even in light of exceptional cases, and I apologize and retract my comment.”
“The comment would have merited resignation as a lawmaker in developed countries”: Professor Shimaoka
“I was appalled when I heard the comment. This kind of comment never becomes an issue in Japan, but in the other developed countries, it would have merited resignation as a lawmaker. In other developed countries, an adult and a junior high school student are never considered as being in love unless they are in a fifty-fifty relationship. It is important to state in the criminal code that a sincere love relationship between an adult and a junior high school student is not possible. The law and social regulations must stress that such a relationship falls into the category of sexual exploitation and could be regarded as a criminal offense.
“Japan is an unequal nation in terms of gender. People don’t realize that unconscious discrimination and prejudice are widespread. As people do not realize that relationships of power exist everywhere, they think even a teacher and a student can enter into a relationship of love. This is a phenomenon unique to less developed nations. If this escalates, it could lead to child marriage.
“This [the case of a teacher having a love relationship with a student] is acceptable in society. [Girls] are made to believe that they are in a romantic relationship. This is the logic of men, who have power. Since this thought is widespread in society, no one sees anything wrong with it.”
Other opinions raised at the CDPJ working team meeting on the raising of the age of consent (excerpts from the working team’s interim report)
“Some junior high school students with family problems agree to have sex with adults to find a place they can belong to. We need to provide them with social protection.”
“The relationship between a male adult and a junior high school girl is anything but equal. Those girls cannot afford to buy contraceptives and are at risk of getting pregnant.”
“The relationship is sexual exploitation as those girls are under the delusion they are in a love relationship. To prevent sexual abuse in advance, sex between an adult and a junior high school student should be banned across the board without making an exception for a relationship of love.”
“There are cases where a junior high school student and an individual adult are in a serious relationship. These cannot be regarded as sexual abuse.”
“There are cases of a junior high school student courting an adult for a sexual relationship.”
“It would be excessive to mete out punishment in a case of sex between an adult and a junior high school girl who are in love.”