Shortening Childhood

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Japan recently lowered its adult age, a move that human and women’s rights advocates fear could make it difficult to protect women under the age of 20, who have been coerced into appearing in pornographic movies, Japan’s Jiji Press reported.

Earlier this month, Japanese lawmakers voted to change the Civil Code to lower the legal age for adulthood to 18 from 20, which had been the age of majority for more than 140 years.

The changes are aimed at giving young people more rights and responsibilities and encouraging them to be more active in civic life: The new legal age will allow 18-year-olds to sign employment contracts and apply for credit cards and loans.

Meanwhile, the legal age for drinking, smoking and gambling will remain at 20, according to the Washington Post.

Still, some lawmakers and activists have expressed concern that the amendments don’t protect vulnerable young people: Some worry the adult industry will begin scouting people in junior high and high schools for positions in the porn industry when they turn 18.

Advocates warn that young people could be coerced or tricked into signing contracts without realizing they will be participating in a porn movie. Before the reforms, sales of movies starring 18- and 19-year-olds could be blocked by using the right to annul contracts signed by minors without the consent of their guardians.

But the revised Civil Code removes such protections, and now 18-year-olds can only annul contracts if they prove they were threatened or defrauded when signing them, something difficult to prove.

Japanese lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura appealed to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to close the loophole but her efforts were laughed at in parliament, the Post noted.

Even so, the Japanese government responded by declaring April as the month for reducing sexual assault against youngsters. It also launched public awareness campaigns.

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