“PROTECTING RAPISTS”: PROTESTERS ACCUSE JAPAN OF FAILING TO PROTECT WOMEN
September 11, 2019
Many activists say Japan's criminal code is outdated, underscoring gender inequality in the country, despite relatively high rates of female education and workplace participation.
Women's rights protesters are taking to the streets for the sixth time in as many months as anger mounts in Japan over "outdated" rape laws, after a man was allowed to walk free despite sexually assaulting his daughter for years.
A court ruled the father had sexually abused his child from around the age 13 to 19 and even acknowledged he was violent when she resisted, but he was acquitted because the law requires prosecutors to prove there was overwhelming force, a threat, or that the victim was completely incapacitated.
The verdict is being appealed, but it has sparked outrage with hundreds again expected to demonstrate in cities across the nation on Wednesday, while an online petition demanding that any sex without consent be defined as rape — signed by more than 47,000 people — has been submitted to the Justice Ministry.
For Jun Yamamoto, who was abused by her father between the ages of 13 and 20, the story is sickeningly familiar.
"Again! ... That was what I thought," the 45-year-old said, adding, "Japanese justice does not recognise sexual offences like this as a crime. I cannot tolerate it anymore."
'A serious problem'
Yamamoto, a nurse who also works for the rights of sexual abuse victims, is demanding reforms to the Japanese criminal code.
"When caught off guard or attacked by somebody who should be someone you can trust, you freeze in shock and cannot fight back," Yamamoto said.
"This legal situation is really a serious problem," she said, her voice quivering with barely suppressed anger.
The cause seems to be winning support with hundreds expected to rally holding symbolic flowers in 20 cities nationwide on Wednesday.
In one past "Flower Demo" in Tokyo, advocates held banners reading, "Law MUST protect victims, NOT perpetrators"
Activists and lawyers warn that Japan's criminal code, which dates back over a century, is incapable of protecting sexual abuse victims.
"When the criminal code was created in 1907, Japan was purely patriarchal," lawyer Yukiko Tsunoda explained.
Many activists feel the law reinforces gender inequality in Japan, despite relatively high rates of female education and workplace participation.
Tsunoda said that sexist norms remain embedded in the legal system and systematically undermine women's rights, which according to her explains why Japan is ranked 110th out of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum's latest gender gap report.
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