The welfare ministry is considering crafting a new law to strengthen the protection of women, including schoolgirls, from sexual exploitation, according to sources.

The law would provide the legal basis for prefectural consulting centers for women, a role currently played by a law that deals primarily with prostitution.

According to the sources, the change would allow the centers to provide more flexible support to a wider range of girls and women, such as those coerced to appear in adult videos. It would also be aimed at high school girls, or joshi kōsei in Japanese, exploited in the so-called JK business to entertain men.

The ministry hopes to introduce the bill during the next ordinary Diet session, which will start early next year, the sources said.

The law against prostitution defines the centers as places to protect and rehabilitate women who may prostitute themselves.

A panel of experts set up by the ministry has called for a review of that narrow definition, saying the current system doesn’t fit the needs of women suffering from other forms of sexual exploitation.

Women being tricked or coerced into appearing in adult videos and schoolgirls being lured into the JK business are seen as major social problems. Starting in 2017, the government has carried out a campaign against sexual exploitation each April.

The prefectural consultation centers for women already provide assistance to victims of domestic violence and many other problems.

The definition “no longer fits the current realities,” a ministry official said.

Under the planned law, the definition of the centers would be rewritten to make it easier to deal with a wider range of exploitation as well as other problems.

The law is expected to include provisions to ensure that the centers work closely with municipalities, public welfare and child consultation centers and nonprofit organizations so they can reach victims unaware of the public assistance available.

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