Porn Complicates Japan's Debate on Lowering Age of Legal Majority to 18

Porn Complicates Japan's Debate on Lowering Age of Legal Majority to 18

TOKYO — As Japan debates lowering the age of legal majority from 20 to 18, a legislator has asked the prime minister to create an exception in the new laws so that 18- and 19-year-olds employed as performers in the adult industry can still get out of their contracts without a penalty, as has been the case until now.

According to a report in today’s Washington Post, a video of lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura’s plea to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and the laughter it elicited among her colleagues, has gone viral on social media in recent days.

Next month, Japan “will lower its legal age for adulthood to 18 from 20 for the first time in more than 140 years, a move aimed at giving young people more rights and responsibilities and encouraging more civic participation in an aging and shrinking society,” the Post reported.

The changes will give Japanese citizens over 18 “the right to sign employment contracts and lease agreements and apply for credit cards and loans. They can be tried as adults in criminal court.”

Shiomura’s appeal to the prime minister on behalf of women aged 18 and 19 would address the legal status of those under 20 who choose to enter the adult entertainment industry.

Until now, the Post reported, “parents could intervene on behalf of underage girls who participated in the films or who changed their minds afterward. If they signed employment contracts as minors, the teens could void them or their parents could do so on their behalf, and they could stop the films from being published.”

According to the Post’s report, last week, “nearly 40,000 people — including former adult film stars and sex workers — signed and submitted an online petition to the government demanding that lawmakers allow 18- and 19-year-olds to void adult-film contracts.”

Earlier this week, to Shiomura’s dismay, it appeared that lawmakers had declined to create a specific “porn exception for 18- and 19-year-old women” within Japanese contract law.

The legal age for drinking, smoking and gambling, however, will remain at 20.

According to Post reporters Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma, the exchange between Shiomura and the prime minister, and the glee of the other lawmakers, is “the latest episode to highlight the lack of female representation [and] respect in the male-dominated world of Japanese politics.”

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