Japanese politicians submit bill to lower legal adulthood age, raise marriage age for women
Move would balance marriage age for men and women, make sex-change operations more easily available.
In Japan, much like in many other countries, students graduate from high school at the age of 18. However, they don’t become legal adults until two years later, when they hit 20, meaning that about half the students on any college campus are still “children” in the eyes of the law.
That may be changing soon, though. On the morning of March 13, lawmakers submitted a formal proposal to reform Japanese civil law and lower the age of legal adulthood to 18, which would be the first change to the statute since the Meiji Era, the Japanese historical period immediately following the end of feudal rule by the Shogun.
The primary impetus for the proposal is that under the current law, 18 and 19-year-old Japanese citizens need their parents or legal guardians to act as proxies when entering into contracts for services such as loans and credit cards. However, not all Japanese people go on to higher education after finishing high school, with some starting adult jobs right after graduation. Requiring people who are old enough to enter the workforce and become financially independent to get their parents’ permission before taking out a loan is seen by supporters of the proposed change as unnecessary, especially since Japanese politicians are concurrently looking to add a number of legal provisions to protect consumers from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous contracts.
Of course, to many the more alluring part of becoming a legal adult is being able to freely purchase alcohol and tobacco products. However, the proposed legal adulthood change would keep the barriers to those vices, as well as gambling, at the age of 20 (though Japan’s enforcement of booze and cigarette sale age restrictions remains incredibly lax). Whether 18 and 19 year-olds would be tried at adults for criminal offenses is a point legislators are still debating.
Bundled with the proposal is a stipulation to raise the age at which Japanese women can get married. Currently, Japanese women are allowed to marry at 16 while men have to wait until 18 to tie the know, but the revised law would make the marriageable age 18 for both. In addition, lowering the age of legal adulthood to 18 would allow 18 and 19-year-olds wanting to undergo a sex-change operation to do so even without parental consent or legally petitioning for the right, a freedom they’re not afforded under the current law.
Should the proposed revision from 20 to 18 meet with approval from the National Diet, it would go into effect on April 1, 2022, suddenly giving the country an extra two years’ worth of legal adults.
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