A Japanese politician has apologized for saying that it’s acceptable for older people to have consensual sex with a 14-year-old.
56-year-old Hiranao Honda has objected to raising Japan’s age of consent from 13 to 16. During a recent debate with his party colleagues, he said, “For example, if you’re near your 50s and you had consensual sex with a 14-year-old child, you’d be arrested. That’s wrong,” according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.
Media reports of the remarks have prompted Honda to apologize on Monday, calling them “inappropriate.”
“I understand that it can be considered sexual exploitation if a young person, at least up to middle-school age, and an adult have sex, given that they are not equals,” he said at a press conference. “I made these comments to consider extreme cases. But my remarks were inappropriate and I apologize.”
Honda’s comments come as Japan is considering changing a century-old law that set the country’s age of consent at 13, the lowest among developed countries.
Debates over amending the 1907 law followed Japan’s move in 2017 to legally recognize men as victims of sexual violence. As part of this legislative exercise, the Ministry of Justice began reviewing the legal age of consent in June 2020.
Some government officials have argued that raising the age of consent could better protect children from sexual violence by criminalizing sex with people under the age of 16.
Children under that age “would not yet have gained enough social experience, nor have developed enough to make decisions about sex,” according to a report by the Ministry of Justice summarizing the views on the issues.
But some opponents, including Honda, said raising the age of consent was unnecessary.
“12- and 20-year-olds can have serious relationships,” the Japanese newspaper quoted Honda as saying at a meeting last month.
“Japan’s age of consent is not that low compared to other nations,” he reportedly said at the same meeting. It’s unclear what nations he was referring to. The lowest age of consent across the globe is 11, in Nigeria.
The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Honda’s affiliated party, has not decided on whether to support lifting the age of consent.
Other parties have continued to discuss the issue internally. There is no timetable for when an amendment will be debated or put to votes in the national legislature.