Isn’t it contradictory that 13-year-olds in Japan are permitted to have sex but not to learn about it?
South Korea has raised the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16. They’re aiming to strengthen protection of minors following criticism that the current law against sex crimes is too weak.
The age of consent varies widely around the world. (The lowest age is 11 in Nigeria, and the highest is 21 in Bahrain.) Most countries in Europe set it between 14 and 16, and the US has state-by-state rules ranging from 16 to 18.
In Japan, it’s still 13. Why is it so low? Do Japanese 13-year-olds have enough education and commonsense to provide informed consent to sexual activity?
In fact, sex education in Japan is really limited and, frankly, backward. Most people receive insufficient sex education both at school and at home. There is still a trend that talking about sex-related topics is taboo.
The curriculum guidelines are provided by the Ministry of Education. During Junior High School, it’s required that fertilization and pregnancy shall be taught. However, the guidelines explicitly say that teachers should not talk about the “progress of pregnancy（妊娠の経過）”.
“The progress of pregnancy” is such an unclear phrase that schoolteachers have to interpret it by themselves. As a result, most schools don’t take up the topics of sexual intercourse and contraception. Schools also provide very limited relationship education or information on same-sex relations.
Where do children get information from then?
Well, this is a big problem. We adults got information and developed our knowledge somehow, little by little. However, children nowadays can reach any information so easily on the internet, including much wrong information, some of which could lead to sex crimes. Children also have easy access to pornography, including extreme and violent material.
Because the adults around children tend to regard sex-related topics as taboo, and also because adults often don’t know how they should talk to their children about sex since they themselves weren’t taught about it, they are likely to avoid these topics.
This situation makes children feel awkward about asking their parents and teachers about sex. They even think they shouldn’t tell their parents about anything sex-related. As a result, many children feel they can’t tell their parents when they encounter a sex crime.
The other problem is that because they are not told about “the progress of pregnancy”, they really don’t know what is going to happen when they have sex intercourse with someone. This might seem difficult to believe but some children don’t know that sexual intercourse could lead to pregnancy. Some children also don’t know there is a time limit during which to decide if they wish to continue their pregnancy or not. Additionally, they don’t know anything about sexually transmitted diseases. They don’t even know they can say “No” to someone with whom they don’t want to have sex.
The situation around children has been changing so quickly. It’s completely different from when we were young. Can we really leave these problems as they are now? Can we protect children? We should make changes to correspond to the situation around us.
Some schools have started their own sex education classes that include more information on sexual intercourse and contraception. This is despite being opposed by some boards of education and some parents. I hope this movement spreads all over Japan and many people begin to understand how important it is to give children correct information and knowledge so that they can avoid unexpected pregnancy, protect their health and those of others, and develop loving, supportive relationships.