The Yomiuri Shimbun The revised Penal Code, which was overhauled to toughen penalties for sex offenses for the first time since the code was established in 1907, came into force Thursday.
The main changes to the code include dropping the requirement that a complaint be filed by the victim before public prosecutors can indict a suspect in a sex crime, and imposing heavier penalties such as a longer minimum statutory penalty for some offenses. Before the new code came into force, the Justice Ministry issued a notice to public prosecutors offices around the nation, calling on them to give utmost consideration to the feelings of the victims when dealing with sex crimes.
Victims have praised the dropping of the requirement for a complaint to be filed, saying this will prevent cases from being hidden in a shroud of silence. However, some observers have also suggested that this could lead to investigations and indictments even when the victim does not wish to go through these processes.
In response to these concerns, the ministry sent the notice dated June 26 to the prosecutor general, the superintending prosecutor of each high public prosecutors office and the chief public prosecutor of each district public prosecutors office. The notice stated protecting a victim’s privacy is “especially important” when dealing with sex offenses, and that when handling such cases, “It is necessary to carefully confirm the wishes of the victim.”
Under the revised Penal Code, acts similar to sexual intercourse can also be considered rape, and men can also be classified as victims. The crime of rape has been renamed “forcible sex and other acts.” The minimum statutory penalty has been increased from three years imprisonment to five years — the same punishment for robbery. The crime of rape resulting in death or injury has been renamed “forcible sex resulting in death or injury,” and the minimum prison sentence for anyone who commits this crime has been increased from five years to six years.
The revised Penal Code includes the newly established crimes of forced indecency or sexual abuse by a parent or guardian of a child aged under 18. If a guardian has sex with or commits an indecent act with such a child, they can now be charged even if there was no assault or intimidation involved.
Furthermore, when a robbery and rape are committed during the same incident, the code had previously stipulated a heavier statutory sentence if the robbery occurred first. Under the revised code, the crime of “robbery and forcible sex and other acts,” which carries a penalty of life imprisonment or a minimum of seven years, can be applied regardless of which crime was committed first.Speech