Japan's lower house on Tuesday passed a bill to raise the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16 to protect children from sexual abuse as part of reforms to the country's Penal Code.

The bill, which will also criminalize sexual offenses even in the absence of physical violence or coercion, will be sent to the upper house following it receiving unanimous consent in the House of Representatives.

The amendments will make upskirting and capturing surreptitious images of genitalia as well as grooming through the offer of payments to children below the age of 16 crimes punishable under the Penal Code.

Meanwhile, the statute of limitations for prosecution will be extended to 15 years from 10 years for nonconsensual intercourse.

A supplementary provision was included stipulating that a further review on the statute of limitations will be considered five years after the revision is implemented, taking into account a survey to be conducted to study the challenges facing people reporting sexual crimes.

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 17 or older engages in intercourse with someone four or fewer years younger than them.

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