16-year-old Japanese girls will no longer be allowed to marry, age of legal adulthood moves to 18
Japanese government votes to amend laws, bringing down age of legal adulthood but raising marrying age for women and gender reassignment surgery.
The House of Councilors, the upper house of Japan’s National Diet, has approved a bill to lower the age of legal adulthood in Japan. The legislation was initially introduced in March, with the amendments to the civil code being formally ratified on June 13.
The revision is the first change to the age of legal adulthood in over a century. The previous law, established during the Meiji period (which ran from 1868 to 1912) set the start of legal adulthood at 20, but the new law will knock that down two years, to 18.
A primary impetus for the change is that while legal adulthood currently begins at 20, many people in Japan join the workforce at 18, immediately after graduating from high school. Lowering legal adulthood to 18 will allow them to enter into housing and financial contracts, such as apartment leases, bank loans, and credit card contracts, without proving parental consent, as lawmakers found such a requirement illogical for citizens who are financially independent.
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 sexes.
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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