The Japanese government plans to lower the age of adulthood under the Civil Code from 20 to 18 by submitting a reform bill to the Diet possibly next year, government sources said Thursday.
The planned amendment would change the entitlements of an adult under the law for the first time since it was enacted in the late 19th century, enabling 18- and 19-year-olds to sign contracts and get married without the consent of their parents and other statutory agents.
Although the change is aimed at helping young people to play a more active role in society and the economy, it could also raise concerns about teenagers becoming involved in consumer problems, such as signing unreasonable contracts for purchases and loans.
Under the current Civil Code, statutory agents can cancel such contracts unconditionally.
The legal age for drinking, smoking and gambling is likely to be retained at 20 as reluctant views have been expressed about lowering it.
The revision would enable both men and women aged 18 and over to get married without parental consent. Currently, people under 20 can only get married when men reach the age of 18 and women 16 if their parents give their consent.
The latest move follows the June enactment of a revised election law that reduced the minimum voting age to 18, and also stated necessary changes would be made to the Civil Code and Juvenile Act.
Amending the Civil Code would affect some 200 other laws, and changes to them will be debated individually, according to the Justice Ministry.
The government began soliciting public comments Thursday on the period of about three years it plans to take in informing the public after passing the bill and on the impact of welcoming some 2 million new adults on the day of enactment, among other issues.