A Japanese woman lawmaker who proposed a bill to protect teens from being exploited by the adult industry was laughed at by other MPs, shedding light on sexism in Japanese politics.
Ayaka Shiomura was laughed at during a parliamentary session on March 28 after she called on lawmakers to create a mechanism that would allow young people to void their employment contracts for adult films.
The issue had arisen after Japan lowered its legal age of adulthood from 20 to 18 in April.
Under the new law, young people over the age of 18 can now enter contracts without parental consent, take out loans and apply for credit cards. The legal age for buying and consuming alcohol and cigarettes, as well as for gambling, remains at 20.
However, human rights advocates have raised concerns that the change may put teen girls at risk of being exploited by the adult film industry, especially those who are being coerced into appearing in adult films.
Before, underaged girls who changed their minds after appearing in adult films, as well as their parents, could void their contracts and prevent the films from being published.
This is no longer possible for 18 and 19 year olds under the new law.
Shiomura has been lobbying lawmakers to address the loophole since February. In response, the government issued a statement calling coercion to appear in adult films “a serious violation of human rights.”
On March 25, almost 40,000 people, including former adult film stars and sex workers, signed and submitted an online competition demanding lawmakers take action on the issue.
Speaking on March 28, Shiomura proposed the bill to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
In response, Kishida said the government would “closely monitor” the situation and “consider how to deal with it.”
“Hearing today’s discussions, I guess you’re holding off,” Shiomura said.
Then the room erupted in laughter.
“Everyone, this is no laughing matter. It is an important issue,” she said. “I hope that instead of laughing, we can work together on this.”
A video clip of the moment has gone viral on Twitter.
Women make up just 9.9 percent of the Japanese Diet’s lower house members, and only two members of Kishida’s cabinet are women.