Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes various forms of rape or forcible sexual intercourse as a statutory term, regardless of the gender of the survivor, and defines the crime as vaginal, anal, or oral penile penetration by force or through intimidation. Both men and women can be charged with rape. Forcible penetration with a body part or object other than the penis can be considered forcible indecency, not rape. The law does not deny the possibility of spousal rape, but no court has ever ruled on such a case, except in situations of marital breakdown (such as formal or informal separation). The law mandates a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment for rape convictions. Prosecutors must prove that violence or intimidation was involved or that the survivor was incapable of resistance. The penalty for forcible indecency is imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than 10 years. Domestic violence is also a crime and survivors may seek restraining orders against their abusers. Convicted assault perpetrators face up to two years’ imprisonment or a modest fine. Convicted offenders who caused bodily injury faced up to 15 years’ imprisonment or a modest fine. Protective order violators faced up to one year’s imprisonment or a moderate fine.
The National Police Agency received more than 83,000 reports of domestic violence in 2021. While the government generally enforced the laws effectively, experts advocated for revising legal requirements to criminalize a range of rape committed through various actions and under varied circumstances.
In October 2021 the Cabinet Office’s Gender Equality Bureau announced the government-run spousal violence counseling and support centers received approximately 177,000 domestic violence inquiries in 2021. While slightly lower than in 2020, these numbers were still 1.5 times higher than in 2019. This can be attributed to a new domestic violence hotline introduced in 2020 that provided an additional way for victims to contact the centers. The government indicated that rape and domestic violence were significantly underreported crimes. According to a March 2021 survey by the Gender Equality Bureau, one in 14 women had been raped or sexually assaulted. More than half did not report the crime. Observers attributed women’s reluctance to report rape to a variety of factors, including fear of retaliation, fear of public shaming, and difficulty in proving statutory rape due to its legal definition requiring violence, intimidation, or the survivor’s incapability of resistance. The survey found that one in four women experienced domestic violence committed by their spouses in the form of physical assault, psychological attack, economic pressure, or sexual coercion. Almost half of the survivors did not report the violence due to concerns that their situations would not meet the legal requirements to constitute a crime, especially when weighed against the social stigma and potential for blame associated with pursuing a legal case. Survivors of abuse by domestic partners, spouses, and former spouses could receive protection at shelters run by either the government or NGOs.
Sexual Harassment: The law requires employers to make efforts to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace; however, such sexual harassment persisted (see section 7.d.).
Men groping women and girls on public transportation continued to be a problem.
During the July Upper House election campaign, there was reported sexual harassment of female candidates by male politicians and candidates, as well as by voters. Footage of a male Japan Innovation Party candidate, Inose Naoki, touching a female candidate of the same party several times during an Upper House campaign event in June drew public criticism for sexual harassment. While Inose publicly admitted his behavior was “thoughtless,” the woman denied his behavior made her uncomfortable, prompting a scholar on gender and politics, Miura Mari, to comment that Inose’s assistance with his colleague’s campaign likely made it difficult for her to protest his advances.
In August, Gonoi Rina, a former member of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), reported that in August 2021, three senior male members of her SDF unit pushed her down on a bed and by turns forced her legs apart and repeatedly pressed their crotches against her at a training site in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture. After she reported the incident, police referred the three men to the prosecutors’ office on charges of indecency, but prosecutors on May 31 dropped the charges, citing lack of evidence. On June 7, Gonoi filed a complaint with an independent panel of citizens, the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution in Koriyama, to appeal the decision. On June 27, she resigned from the SDF. On August 31, she presented to Vice-Minister of Defense Kimura Jiro a petition signed by more than 100,000 SDF personnel calling for a third-party reinvestigation of her harassment and revealing that 146 other members had reported experiencing sexual harassment in the SDF.
On September 6, Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu announced that the ministry would conduct an independent investigation of Gonoi’s case and issued a separate order to investigate sexual harassment across the SDF. On September 7, the independent panel of citizens comprising the committee for inquest ruled that the decision not to indict the three offenders was wrong and requested prosecutors to reinvestigate the case. By year’s end, the reinvestigation was ongoing. On September 29, the Defense Ministry held a press conference to make a public apology to Gonoi. On October 17, Gonoi disclosed that each of the offenders had privately apologized to her.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
The law requires transgender persons to be without reproductive capacity, effectively requiring surgical sterilization for most persons to have their gender identity legally recognized. (See subsection on Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics, below.)
The law requires spousal consent to terminate a pregnancy. In 2013 the Ministry of Health clarified that the consent requirement does not apply to unmarried couples, and in 2021 the ministry exempted married women who had difficulty obtaining consent because their marriage was essentially over due to domestic violence or other reasons. The policy, however, is not legally binding, and activists noted some health professionals still enforced a requirement for receiving the father’s consent on unmarried women, as well as on women who were survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, in order to avoid the risk of a lawsuit under their interpretation of the law.
The Japan Medical Association instructed gynecologists to request documentation like a bill of indictment or a court sentence from sexual assault survivors seeking an abortion, but the legal complexities and social stigma associated with prosecuting rape cases served as a barrier to swift remedies.
The government subsidized sexual or reproductive healthcare services for survivors of sexual violence when the survivors sought help from police or government-designated centers supporting sexual violence survivors located in each prefecture. These services included medical examinations and emergency contraception. Contraception methods are taught in schools and contraception is safe, effective, and widely available in the country.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on sex and generally provides women the same rights as men.
Despite the law and related policies, government enforcement was limited. NGOs continued to allege that implementation of antidiscrimination measures was insufficient, pointing to discriminatory provisions in the law, unequal treatment of women in the labor market (see section 7.d.), and low representation of women in elected bodies (see section 3).
The civil code requires married couples to share a single surname. According to the government, 96 percent of married couples adopt the husband’s family name. On March 23, the Supreme Court ruled in two cases that the legal provision requiring married couples to use the same surname is constitutional. The ruling upheld 2015 and 2021 decisions and recommended the issue be discussed in the Diet.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
There is no comprehensive law prohibiting racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination.
Despite legal safeguards against discrimination, foreign permanent residents in the country and non-ethnic Japanese citizens, including many who were born, raised, and educated in the country, were subjected to various forms of entrenched societal discrimination, including restricted access to housing, education, health care, and employment opportunities. Foreign nationals and “foreign looking” citizens reported they were prohibited entry – sometimes by signs reading “Japanese Only” – to privately owned facilities serving the public, including hotels and restaurants.
Legal and civil society experts noted that laws of some municipalities contributed to a continued decrease in hate speech at street demonstrations. Hate speech online continued, however, while crimes targeting members of specific ethnicities, such as ethnic Koreans, also continued, according to experts who called on the government to implement more effective deterrent measures and conduct a survey on hate speech incidents.
For example, in August, a man was sentenced to four years in prison for arson in the Utoro district of Kyoto, which has a large ethnic Korean population. The Kyoto District Court ruled that the act was based on prejudice and hatred toward ethnic Koreans. According to media reports, the perpetrator was radicalized by reading anti-Korean comments online. In another example, graffiti in red Japanese characters reading “Kill Koreans Group” was found at a Tokyo train station in September.
There were also incidents directed at other racial and ethnic minority groups. Legal experts pointed out that hate speech against Chinese increased after the COVID-19 outbreak.
The law specifically addresses discrimination against Buraku (the descendants of feudal-era outcasts). It obligates national and local governments to study discrimination against Buraku, implement awareness education, and enhance the counseling system.
Buraku advocacy groups continued to report that despite socioeconomic improvements in their communities, widespread discrimination persisted in employment, marriage, housing, and property assessment. Although the Buraku label was no longer officially used to identify individuals, the family registry system can be used to identify them and facilitate discriminatory practices. Buraku advocates expressed concern that employers who required family registry information from job applicants for background checks, including many government agencies, might use this information to identify and discriminate against Buraku applicants.
The law recognizes Ainu as Indigenous persons, protects and promotes their culture, and prohibits discrimination against them. The law requires the national and local governments to take measures to support communities and boost local economies and tourism. The law does not provide for self-determination or other tribal rights, nor does it stipulate rights to education for Ainu.
Although the government does not recognize the Ryukyu (a term that includes residents of Okinawa and portions of Kagoshima Prefecture) as Indigenous persons, it officially acknowledged their unique culture and history and made efforts to preserve and show respect for those traditions.
Birth Registration: The law grants citizenship at birth to a child of a Japanese father who either is married to the child’s mother or recognizes his paternity; a child of a Japanese mother; or a child born in the country to parents who are both unknown or are stateless. The law relieves an individual from some conditions for naturalization if that individual was born in the country with no nationality at the time of birth but has resided in the country for three consecutive years or more since his or her birth, but it does not grant citizenship without further conditions. The law requires registration within 14 days after in-country birth or within three months after birth abroad, and these deadlines were generally met. Individuals were allowed to register births after the deadline but were required to pay a nominal fine.
The law requires individuals to specify whether a child was born in or out of wedlock on the birth registration form. The law presumes that a child born within 300 days of a divorce is the divorced man’s child, resulting in the nonregistration of an unknown number of children.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse. Reports of child abuse – physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect – increased. Experts attributed the rise to increased social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were concerns that more cases went undetected as COVID-19 reduced the frequency with which children interacted with persons outside the family.
Children were also subject to human rights abuses via the internet. Abuses included publishing photographs and videos of elementary school students in public places without their consent. The government requested site operators to remove such images, and many reportedly complied.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: As of April 1, the minimum legal age to marry for both sexes was 18. A person younger than 20 may not marry without at least one parent’s approval.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The commercial sexual exploitation of children is illegal, with penalties including prison sentences or moderate fines. The age of consent is 13, which makes prosecution for child rape difficult. Statutory rape laws criminalize sexual intercourse with a girl or a boy younger than age 13, notwithstanding her or his “consent,” and notwithstanding the absence of force or intimidation. The law also criminalizes custodial rape of a minor younger than age 18. The penalty for statutory rape is a sentence of not less than five years’ imprisonment with mandatory labor. The law was enforced. Additionally, national law and local ordinances address sexual abuse of minors.
Possession of child pornography is a crime. The commercialization of child pornography is illegal with the penalty of imprisonment with labor for not more than five years, a modest fine, or both. Police noted that instances of sexual exploitation via social networking services continued to rise. NGOs continued to express concern that preventive efforts more frequently targeted victims rather than perpetrators. NGOs reported the low age of consent complicated efforts to formally identify children exploited in commercial sex as trafficking victims.
The continued practice of enjo kosai (compensated dating) and the existence of websites for online dating, social networking, and “delivery health” (a euphemism for call girl or escort services) facilitated the sex trafficking of children and other commercial sex industries. NGOs reported that unemployment and stay-at-home orders established because of the COVID-19 crisis fueled online sexual exploitation of children. The government’s interagency taskforce to combat child sex trafficking in joshi kosei (or “JK” businesses) – dating services connecting adult men with underage girls – and in forced pornography continued to strengthen its crackdown on such businesses. Ordinances in eight prefectures ban JK businesses, prohibiting girls younger than age 18 from working in “compensated dating services,” or requiring JK business owners to register their employee rosters with local public safety commissions. NGOs helping girls in the JK business reported a link between these activities and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The country was a site for the production of child pornography and the exploitation of children by traffickers.
No law addresses the unfettered availability of sexually explicit cartoons, comics, and video games, some of which depicted scenes of violent sexual abuse and the rape of children.
The total Jewish population is approximately 3,000 to 4,000. There were no known reports of antisemitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: No laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations continued to report violence against LGBTQI+ individuals, and claimed that individual politicians’ remarks may have incited, condoned, or tolerated nongovernmental actor violence. According to legal experts, hate speech or hate crimes against transgender individuals were numerous. Stigma surrounding LGBTQI+ persons remained an impediment to reporting abuse and discrimination.
Discrimination: No law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. No national law recognizes LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, or their families, or protects the LGBTQI+ community from antigay propaganda, hate speech, restrictions on legal registration, or restrictions on the organization of events such as Pride marches. Lawsuits were filed by same-sex couples during the year on the right to same-sex marriage. On June 20, the Osaka District Court ruled that freedom of marriage in the constitution referred only to male-female unions, and that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage was constitutional. On November 30, the Tokyo District Court ruled that while the existing law banning same-sex marriages was constitutional, the lack of a legislative framework authorizing marriage for individuals of the same gender runs “counter to the constitution.”
Some municipalities, including Tokyo, have issued “same-sex partnership certificates” conferring on same-sex couples some of the rights that heterosexual couples have.
LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations reported instances of discrimination, outing of LGBTQI+ individuals by others, bullying, and harassment.
NGOs reported that remarks by Liberal Democratic Party candidate Inoue Yoshiyuki during the Upper House election campaign in June included discriminatory statements against sexual minorities. The NGOs noted his remarks appeared to attribute the country’s low birthrate to homosexuality. Inoue won a seat in the election.
An LGBTQI+ religious leader reported an instance in which members of a Christian group surrounded an LGBTQI+ individual at their place of worship and prayed to change the individual’s sexual orientation. The source described this incident as contributing to a chilling environment that caused the LGBTQI+ member to fear continuing to visit his place of worship.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: The law requires transgender persons to be without reproductive capacity, effectively requiring surgical sterilization for most persons to have their gender identity legally recognized. They also must meet additional conditions, including undergoing a psychiatric evaluation and receiving a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder,” a disorder not recognized in the International Classification of Diseases; being unmarried and older than age 20; and not having any children younger than age 20. If the conditions are met, pending approval by a family court, their gender may be recognized.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: Members of the LGBTQI+ community reported that some psychiatrists were advertising “conversion therapy” and that some groups were exercising talk therapy or religious rituals and exerting pressure on LGBTQI+ individuals to change their sexual orientation, identification, and expression.
In June a cross-party group of Diet members, including several members of the ruling LDP, attended a conference of the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership, where a booklet describing sexual minority status as “an acquired psychological disorder or addiction that can be changed through treatment or religious belief,” or “cured” through “conversion therapy,” reportedly circulated. The booklet also declared, “We should not legitimatize the sexual lifestyles of sexual minorities as it will become a social problem which will destroy families and society.” In July the NGO Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation made a statement protesting the booklet as discriminatory, abusive of human rights, and based on unscientific claims. On July 4, LGBTQI+ supporters held a “Stand for LGBTQ+ Life” demonstration outside the LDP headquarters in Tokyo.
In July a group of religious leaders, the Network for Biblical Understanding of Sexuality, established an advocacy organization affirming that LGBTQI+ was “sinful.” The organization released material online in support of its position, including a video arguing that an individual’s sexual orientation can be “corrected” through counseling, especially when the individual is still young. In September a Christian group, the Japanese Christians Against the Nashville Statement, launched a countervailing online campaign against justification of “conversion therapy” and gained more than 18,000 signatures to support the campaign as of November.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no restrictions on those speaking out about LGBTQI+ matters such as so-called antigay propaganda laws, “hate speech” laws, and restrictions on the ability of LGBTQI+ organizations to legally register or convene events such as Pride festivities.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transport on an equal basis with others. The law requires the public sector to provide reasonable accommodations and the private sector to make best efforts in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other services; however, there are no penalties for noncompliance. In May the government implemented a new law requiring national and local governments and business operators to make best efforts to ensure the availability of information and communication in accessible formats. The community of persons with disabilities welcomed the new law. Children with disabilities generally attended the same schools with peers without disabilities but in classes designated for children with disabilities, or in segregated schools. A group of parents of children with disabilities reported teachers’ tendency to recommend sending children with disabilities to segregated schools despite the parents’ hope to send the children to mainstream schools with their peers without disabilities.
Persons with disabilities experienced abuse, including sexual abuse of women with disabilities, by family members, care-facility employees, and employers. Some persons with disabilities reported increased verbal abuse of persons with disabilities on the street. In one high-profile case, the Fukuoka District Public Prosecutors Office prosecuted the head of a facility supporting children with disabilities, Shinichi Sakaue, and schoolteacher Hiroshi Matsubara for illegally capturing and confining teenage boys with disabilities using violence. Reportedly, while the suspects claimed they would provide “therapy” to children with behavioral disabilities, charging parents fees for “rescue services,” in one case they secured a boy victim’s hands and feet with zip ties, covered his head with a bag, and confined him in the facility for two days.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
No law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS; nonbinding Ministry of Health guidelines state that firms should not terminate or fail to hire individuals based on their HIV status. Courts have awarded damages to individuals fired from positions due to their HIV status.
Concerns about discrimination against individuals with HIV or AIDS, as well as the stigma associated with them and fear of dismissal, prevented many persons from disclosing their HIV or AIDS status.