Photo/Illutration A woman, left, speaks about her experience of being forced to appear in an adult video at a gathering in the Diet building on March 23. (Ryuichi Hisanaga)

A cross-party group of lawmakers is racing to draft legislation to allow 18- and 19-year-olds to cancel contracts for appearing in adult videos that they signed against their will.

Advocates for the new legislation gathered in the Diet building on March 23 to call for ensuring teenagers legal protections against this kind of extortion. People aged 18 and 19 are currently protected against this exploitation under the Civil Law, but are about to unintentionally lose that protection when the age of adulthood changes.

Japan will lower the legal age of adulthood to 18 from 20 starting in April, in a major shift that will have significant implications for 18- and 19-year-olds.

Under Article 5 of the Civil Law, they can have the sale of adult videos they have appeared canceled if parental consent was not obtained in their contracts.

The clause provides protection when young people get duped or pressured into appearing in pornography.

But due to a legal oversight, this protection will not be available to them starting on April 1, when people 18 or 19 will legally become adults--requiring no parental consent when they ink those contracts.

At the meeting in the Diet building, a victim underlined the importance of retaining that protection by sharing what she experienced as a college senior, when she was forced to appear in pornography.

The woman said she was approached about playing a part in a music activity, but the gig turned out to be pornography.

When she resisted, she was surrounded by more than 10 adults who pressured her into agreeing to the part.

“How much labor and time do you think we have spent on the project?” one of them told her, as they coerced her into accepting the job.

The woman was able to get as much of the footage removed from the internet as she could--but not all of it.

“This is the horrible experience that I went through,” she said. “I have heard that some people committed suicide after having similar experiences. There should be a measure to respond to such circumstances, even if the legal age of adulthood is lowered.”

A private group that helps victims also attended the meeting, calling for Article 5 to continue to apply to 18- and 19-year-olds.

Lawmakers of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan are spearheading efforts to quickly enact legislation to address the problem.

Their colleagues from the ruling coalition in the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito are cooperating with the initiative.

“I will work hard to help build a consensus to endorse the legislation,” said Sayaka Sasaki, a Komeito legislator of the Upper House.

A senior official of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee said the party expects no opposition to the planned legislation.

(This article was written by Ryuichi Hisanaga and Maho Yoshikawa.)