No means no: Japan is set to redefine rape in landmark legal reform

2023-06-06 22:25:49  • 8 mins

By Tessa Wong & Sakiko Shiraishi

BBC News, Tokyo and Singapore

Warning: this article contains details that some readers may find distressing.

Days after their rape, Megumi Okano says, they already knew the attacker would get away scot-free.

Megumi, who uses they as a personal pronoun, knew the man who did it, and where to find him. But Megumi also knew there would be no case, because Japanese authorities were not likely to consider what happened as rape.

So the university student decided not to report the incident to the police.

"As I couldn't pursue [justice] that way, he got to live a free and easy life. It is painful to me," Megumi says.

But change may be coming. The Japanese parliament is now debating a landmark bill to reform the country's sexual assault laws, only the second such revision in a century.

The bill covers a number of changes, but the biggest and most significant one will see lawmakers redefine rape from "forcible sexual intercourse" to "non-consensual sexual intercourse" - effectively making legal room for consent in a society where the concept is still poorly understood.

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