JAPAN|

Japanese government votes to amend laws. This will lower the legal age, but raise the marital age for women, and allow gender reassignment surgery.

The House of Councillors is the upper house of Japan’s National Diet and has approved a bill that lowers the legal age of adulthood in Japan. The legislation was first introduced in March. The amendments to civil code were formally ratified by the House of Councillors on June 13. This revision marks the first time that the legal age of legal adulthood has been changed in more than a century. The original law, which was established in the Meiji period (1868-1912), set the age of legal adulthood at 20. However, the new law will lower that number by two years to 18.

The primary reason for this change is that, while legal adulthood begins at age 20, many Japanese people enter the workforce as soon as they graduate high school. Because lawmakers felt that such a requirement was unreasonable for financially independent citizens, they will be able to enter financial and housing contracts without the need to prove parental consent..However, the minimum age for purchasing/using alcohol and tobacco, as well as gambling at Japan’s pachinko parlors, horse tracks, and other betting institutions, will remain at 20. In total, 22 sections of the civil code were amended, with the proposals winning broad support across Japan’s major political factions such as the Liberal Democratic, Komeito, and Japan Restoration parties. The changes aren’t all about lowering ages, either. Currently, women in Japan are allowed to marry at 16, two years earlier than men. Under the new ordinances, tough, it will be raised to 18, making the marriage age the same for both genders.

Another change: individuals seeking gender reassignment surgery will be able to have such procedures done at 18, with no need for parental consent. In drier developments, 18-year-olds will also be able to apply for 10-year passports and to become doctors and certified public accountants. However, the length of study required to pass the exams for those fields, plus a stipulation that national medical license examinees complete at least six years of education beyond the high-school level, means that the chances of your physician or CPA in Japan being a teenager are virtually nonexistent.

Speaking of education, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology has expressed concerns that moving the age of legal adulthood to 18 means that Coming of Age Ceremonies, traditionally held in January, will overlap with the test-taking period for college entrance exams. Seeing as how Coming of Age Ceremonies are often rowdy, exuberant affairs, the ministry is worried that the festivities will interfere with teens’ scholastic focus at a critical point in their educational careers, and is hoping to work with local municipalities on ways to limit any negative influence, perhaps by rescheduling when the ceremonies are held.

Some are also apprehensive about less-than-scrupulous individuals taking advantage of 18-year-olds’ naivety and lack of consumer experience by swindling them into agreeing to unfair, yet legally binding, contracts. To properly protect them, the government plans to spend the next two years investigating what other legislation needs to be added or amended, with 18 officially becoming the age of legal adulthood on April 1, 2022.

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