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Innocence lost: Japan's lax attitude to pedophilia

A tasteless joke by a lawmaker regarding the age of consent highlights the country's sexualization of children

Innocence lost: Japan's lax attitude to pedophilia

Sexual exploitation is often tolerated in Japan because the age of consent is only 13. (Photo: YouTube)

The most obvious thing about pedophiles is that they cannot hide their perverted nature, presumably because they don’t consider themselves to be perverted. And one of the things they often unconsciously do is to make sexual jokes. Often disgusting jokes.

That’s exactly what happened almost a month ago — but we only came to know about it now — in Tokyo with a House of Representatives member, a 56-year-old named Hiranao Honda. Now Honda doesn’t walk around in flip-flops and a baseball cap; we assume he has his own chauffeur and tailor-made suits, and he sometimes attends conferences and talks about lawmaking. 

On this occasion Honda made a comment regarding the proposed law to raise Japan's minimum age of sexual consent from 13 to 16. Yes, indeed, Japan still grants a 13-year-old child full rights to consent to sexual acts with an adult (that’s as low as Burkino Faso and Niger).

This is an absurdity in itself given that a 13-year-old in Japan is considered seven years too young to even enter a supermarket and buy a beer or a pack of cigarettes, but if he/she wants to go to a love hotel accompanied by a 50-year-old stranger, then that is absolutely his/her right to do so.

What kind of mental case has been able to churn out this kind of regulation is a fact we won’t discuss here. 

While discussing this overdue law change, Honda publicly stated, apparently ironically, that he would find it absurd if a 50-year-old man had sex with a 14-year-old girl and went to jail for it. What sane person in the world would make such a comment to entertain a crowd? 

Should a politician suffer no consequences for saying that having sex with a child is OK?

But this actually happened. We know it happened for sure because Honda confirmed it by, of course, apologizing with a beautifully concocted phrase used often by Japanese when they just don’t want to be bothered by all the bad publicity that comes after they said something alarming. He said: “Zengotekkai shimasu.” Let’s pretend it didn't happen.

Is there even one parent in this country who after what Honda said would leave her child alone with him for even a walk in the park? If that’s the case, as we all would all agree, then I ask myself why this man is even allowed to be involved in the legal process that calls for drawing a line on children’s sexual rights. 

Should a politician suffer no consequences for saying that having sex with a child is OK? Yoshiro Mori, 83, the former Tokyo Olympics president, was forced to resign after saying that women have a tendency to make long speeches, which is annoying. Do you begin to get the point?

A Japanese comedian recently apologized for another controversial remark. He said that men, given that the Covid-induced economic downturn hit the young particularly hard, can look forward to seeing more "pretty girls getting into [the sex industry] after the coronavirus is over" as they would try to make up for the loss of salary by prostituting themselves. Takashi Okamura “regretted” what he said and apologized with a statement posted on the website of Yoshimoto Kogyo Holdings Co., the company he works for.

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What is astounding is that not many people reacted by openly criticizing those comments. But one person did, and it was a woman, 31-year-old Yumeno Nito, a representative of Colabo, an association that supports teenage girls who have been victims of abuse and sexual violence. What she said is important to highlight that is not the wording of Honda’s statement that we should be concerned about the most but the psychology behind it.

“Even though there is sexual consent between a man in his 50s and a 14-year-old girl, this is carried out through a dominant relationship,” she said. Therefore, she rightly pointed out, the problem is that Honda, in his mind, believes that there is an equal relationship between him, a 56-year-old man, and a 14-year-old child. And that is the real problem.

In Japan most of the sexual exploitation is tolerated because of this legal loophole. It is, indeed, convenient for a predator to treat a 14-year-old child as an adult. And we cannot ignore the odd correlation between the legal age for sexual consent in Japan that is still 13 and the existence of people like Honda in the lawmaking process.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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