Japan – June 2023
Controversial immigration bill passed by parliament
Parliament on 6 June passed a bill to amend the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, allowing the government to deport asylum seekers who apply for refugee status more than twice. The bill faced heavy criticism from opposition lawmakers, human rights experts, and civil society organizations, claiming that the new legislation enables the government to repatriate those who are at risk of persecution in their home countries. Critics note that the new bill creates unnecessary obstacles for asylum seekers in what are already considered to be stringent regulations for granting refugee status.
Japan reforms sex crime laws
On June 16, Parliament passed a bill raising the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16, a limit that had been unchanged since 1907. The bill expands the definition of nonconsensual sex, criminalizes voyeurism, and clarifies rape prosecution requirements. Critics and rights advocates have long pointed out the deficiencies within Japan's legal framework in failing to protect women and children from sexual exploitation. The change was allegedly prompted by the "Flower Demo" protests spanning four years, condemning sexual violence and rape case acquittals. While generally hailed as a positive development, certain rights experts have raised concerns with some of the bill's problematic clauses i.e., the exemption of teen couples where partners are less than five years apart, among other things. One crucial avenue still required is the implementation of educational initiatives that ingrain the concept that sexual intercourse without consent is a crime.
Controversial LGBTQIA+ understanding bill passed
On 16 June, Japan’s national legislature enacted a law aimed at promoting the understanding of LGBTQIA+ persons and eliminating "unfair discrimination" against people based on their sexual orientation. While a step forward in advancing LGBTQIA+ rights, activists have heavily criticized the bill for being "watered down” and failing to comprehensively combat discrimination. The law does not penalize those engaging in "unfair discrimination" which is alleged to be vaguely defined and instead states that "efforts" should be made by government agencies, employers and schools to promote sexual and gender identity diversity.