From April 2022, the age of majority, or the age one is considered a legal adult, in Japan will lower from 20 to 18. While this leaves the status of important annual rituals such as coming-of-age ceremonies in limbo, the shift will allow younger people a wider range of privileges such as the ability to vote, own a passport, and apply for a credit card.
However, the implications of the shift will also reverberate in another important part of Japanese society: juvenile criminal law.
Recently, the Abe administration has entered a round of inner party discussions over amending a law protecting the privacy of juvenile criminals. In prior years, if the perpetrator of a serious crime was younger than the age of 20, their names as well as photos were censored from mass media. Given the government’s push to lower the age of legal adulthood to 18, it comes to no surprise that the age threshold for withholding a criminal’s name from the news will be lowered as well.
The new policy has received mixed responses from Japanese netizens. Some netizens fully agreed with the amendment, some had questioning comments, and some went full sardonic:
“Big progress. Since they’re lowering the legal age, this is pretty much expected.”
“They should also stop censoring the faces of criminals who are caught in the act by security cameras.”
“To be honest, if there’s really extenuating circumstances, I don’t think names should be revealed at all no matter how old you are.”
“Maybe we should lower it to 16 instead?”
“This is so annoying. Why not just execute all the criminals?”
Several Twitter users have gone as far as suggesting that the age threshold of the amendment be further lowered to age 14. As compulsory education in Japan ends at junior high school, some Japanese netizens believe that high school students should be tried as adults rather than minors.
▼ “We should lower the age threshold to middle school graduates. At that age you already know what’s good or bad. Since leopards can’t change their spots, if you grow to be the type of person to commit crimes, you can never change.”
While whether or not one believes teenagers should be tried as adults is dependent on one’s views on child development and crime. And depending on one’s own individual opinion for the treatment of criminals, the removal of name concealment for criminals aged 18 and 19 may seem either fair or unethical.
In Japan, similar to many other countries, minors are sent to a correctional facility for education and rehabilitation.
Another important topic to consider beyond the concealment of names for juvenile criminals is the vice versa: the concealment of victim names.
One Twitter user, @hime20120111, brings up a salient point that the privacy of victims should be protected by law as well. Currently in Japan, the disclosure of victim names is up to the police, meaning names could be revealed as long as the police deems the disclosure necessary and/or ethical—not particularly the most comforting policy for affected parties or those who are grieving.
▼ “Regardless of the age, I think it’s fine to release the name of criminals. However, setting legal restrictions on the disclosure of names for criminals, but none for the disclosure of victim names, is weird…”
Though there’s no way to tell what would be the consequences of this amendment, we can only wait and observe what will happen in the upcoming years as Japan’s new age threshold for legal adulthood comes into full motion.
Source: Livedoor News via Jin
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