Japan's Cabinet approved a bill Tuesday to recognize a sexual violation even in the absence of physical violence or coercion and raise the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16, as part of reforms to the country's Penal Code.

The amendments, which will see a sexual offense charge renamed to make clearer the illegality of nonconsensual intercourse, will also make upskirting and producing images of genitalia without consent crimes punishable under the Penal Code.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (C) attends a Cabinet meeting in Tokyo on March 14, 2023. (Kyodo)

The government aims to pass the bill during the current parliamentary session. The revisions will take effect 20 days after promulgation.

The amendment to the sexual offense charge will define the circumstances for a violation as making it difficult for a person to "form, express or fulfill the intention to resist" a sexual act, listing eight examples such as taking advantage of a person's impaired ability to resist due to the influence of alcohol or drugs and abusing one's economic or social power.

While Japan revised its Penal Code in 2017, renaming the crime of "rape" to "forcible sexual intercourse," it still required physical violence or coercion for a sexual violation to be defined as rape.

Some actions that would not be charged under the current system due to the vague definition of what is punishable may become illegal under the new amendments.

The amendments will also criminalize sex with children under the age of 16 by raising the legal age of consent from 13.

Japan's current age of consent has remained unchanged since its enactment in 1907 and is one of the lowest among developed nations.

While the changes will make sexual intercourse with a person under 16 illegal regardless of consent, an exception is provided for cases in which an individual aged from 13 to 15 years has intercourse with a person less than five years older.

In addition to making upskirting and the production of images of genitalia, buttocks and breasts without consent illegal, providing or circulating such images and videos will also be punishable.

Promising payments to children below the age of 16 will also be criminalized under the revisions to prevent sexual grooming.

Meanwhile, the statute of limitations for prosecution will be extended to 15 years from 10 years for nonconsensual intercourse, and to 20 years from 15 years for indecent assault resulting in injury.

However, if a victim was less than 18 at the time of an assault, the statute of limitations will not commence until the victim turns 18 -- the legal age of adulthood in Japan.

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