The Yomiuri Shimbun It is hoped that a lowering of the legal age of adulthood will be taken as an opportunity to encourage greater youth participation in society.
At a press conference after assuming the post of justice minister, Yoko Kamikawa presented a plan to swiftly realize a revision to the Civil Code, to lower the age of majority from 20 to 18. She intends to submit legislation to revise the law at an extraordinary Diet session this autumn.
If enacted, the revised law would take effect after a period of at least three years, to ensure the general public is fully aware of the change. The legal age of adulthood has not been reviewed for over 100 years, when it was set at 20 years old in the Meiji era (1868-1912). This would be a historic change in the law.
The voting age has already been lowered to “18 or older.” It stands to reason that young people who have become eligible to participate in politics will have rights and responsibilities under the Civil Code.
There remains strong opposition to lowering the legal age of adulthood. Reasons cited against revision include that young people lack social experience and are mentally immature.
However, most countries in the world have set their age of majority at 18. It cannot be said that only Japan’s young people lack maturity.
It should be expected that the revision would encourage young people to grow mentally by being treated as adults. As contributing members of society, they would think about the country’s future seriously. To increase such awareness among young people, the revision is greatly significant.
If those aged 18 and 19 are recognized as adults under the Civil Code, they would be entitled to purchase certain items and enter into contracts, such as loan agreements, without consent from their parents or legal representatives. There would also be no need for them to be subject to parental authority.
Keep drinking, smoking ban
The possibility cannot be ruled out that unscrupulous business operators will target young people.
It is essential to improve consumer education at schools and other institutions to enable young people to make appropriate judgments as adults. The introduction of a support system to protect young adults should also be considered.
The Civil Code currently sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 for men and 16 for women. Today, no rational reason can be found to differentiate the ages of men and women in terms of marriage. It is reasonable that Kamikawa put forward the idea of unifying the legal age of marriage to 18 and above for both men and women.
The age of majority is closely connected to the age threshold of the Juvenile Law. With a view to a revision of the Civil Code, the Legislative Council is advancing discussions on whether the age of minors covered by the Juvenile Law should be lowered from under 20 to under 18.
If 18- and 19-year-olds, who currently fall under the law, commit a crime, how should opportunities for rehabilitation be ensured? This point should be kept in mind if the upper age limit for the Juvenile Law is lowered.
Those under 20 are prohibited from drinking and smoking under the Law for Preventing Minors from Drinking and other regulations. It has been pointed out that the earlier people start drinking and smoking, the greater the health risks they face in later life.
If young people reach the eligible age for drinking and smoking as third-year high school students, there would be unavoidable confusion in terms of lifestyle guidance and so on.
If the age of majority is changed, current provisions prohibiting drinking and smoking should be left unchanged.