legal reform for the law regarding sexual violence in Japan

legal reform for the law regarding sexual violence in Japan

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発信者:Human Rights Now, Voice Up Japan, Spring 宛先:the minister of justice in Japan

Why was a father that sexually assaulted his daughter found not guilty?

In March 2019, there was a case in which a 19-year-old girl was forced to have sex with her father, and the father was acquitted.

This girl had been sexually abused by her father since her second year in middle school and is said to have been a victim of domestic violence by her father even before the alleged sexual abuse.

Many people have raised their voice to question “Why was he acquitted?”.

And not only in this case; recently many sexual violence cases have continued to see acquittals.

Moreover, beyond the acquittals, there are countless numbers of cases where, even if women report their violations, the police do not accept them. And even if they accept them, case after case will go unprosecuted.

Why do perpetrators of sexual violence go unpunished?

According to a study by the Cabinet Office in 2017, “Study on Violence between Men and Women”, 7.8% of women (1 in 13) and 1.5% of men (1 in 67) have experienced forced sex without consent. However, according to the national police, the number of rape crimes recognized in 2018 was 1307, which is only a small fraction of the victims.

Furthermore, how many of these cases will lead to prosecutions? Of the rape cases handled by the National Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2018, only 32.7% were prosecuted.

Why? In Japan, in order for a rape crime to be established, it is not enough for there to only be non-consent. Some form of physical assault, intimidation, incapacitation, or inability to refuse is also strictly required.

Therefore, for many women who have been sexually assaulted, in the current situation they are told that "there is no evidence of assault or intimidation" or "there is no evidence of incapacitation or inability to refuse"; the police will not look into the crimes; the perpetrators will not be prosecuted; and the victims will be forced to give up in frustration.

Penal Code Article 177 “Forced Sexual Assault” : A person who, through assault or intimidation, forcibly has sexual intercourse, anal sex, or oral sex (hereinafter referred to as "sexual intercourse") with a person of not less than thirteen years of age will be considered to have committeed forced sexual assault and shall be punished by imprisonment for a definite term of not less than five years. The same shall apply to a person who commits sexual intercourse with a person under thirteen years of age.

Penal Code Article 178(2) “Quasi Forced Sexual Assault": A person who commits sexual intercourse by taking advantage of a loss of consciousness or inability to resist, or by causing a loss of consciousness or inability to resist, shall be punished in the same manner as prescribed in the preceding Article.

However, if sexual activity is suddenly committed by a parent or boss and one’s body freezes and cannot move, or if one cannot resist due to alcohol, even if it’s forced sexual activity, isn’t it strange that the perpetrator cannot be blamed for anything?

Why is it that, even though it is clear that forced sexual activity has been committed, unless the requirements of “assault” or “inability to refuse”, etc., can be proven, the perpetrator will not be found guilty?

In 2017, the Penal Code’s sex crime regulations were revised. The crime of rape became “forced sexual assault”; the assault of male victims also became punishable; and the punishment was strengthened (from 3+ years in prison to 5+ years in prison).

Even so, because under the Penal Code rules the requirements of “assault, intimidation” and “inability to refuse”, etc., were kept as they are, even when there is a sex crime, a lot of victims will still be forced to give up in frustration.

Several countries outside of Japan such as Sweden, England, Canada, Germany, and the US (some states) have actually revised the definition for sex crimes from the perspective of victims, such as making all forms of unconsented sexual activity subject to criminal punishment as “rape”. Also in Asia, in Korea and Taiwan, an expansion of legal reforms establishing sex crimes has occurred.

In specifying the requirements in the above Article such as “assault, intimidation” and “inability to refuse”, the Japanese system is imposing the hurdle of a high burden of proof on the prosecution (victim) side, and it is become continually outdated from the international trend, while the victims are suffering.

No more. We are now calling for a revision of the Penal Code so that the present situation where sex crimes are not punished will not continue.

During the 2017 legal revision, it was decided that about three years later there would be consideration of a review of the Penal Code. Next year, 2020, will be three years later.

Right now, to realize a better system and protect more victims, we earnestly call on the government to immediately start a discussion on further legal revision.

Therefore, we urge the Ministry of Justice to submit a new revision to the next session of the Diet which incorporates the following requirements, so that a 2020 revision of the Penal Code will be realized. The following should be included in the revised law.

■ Revise the Penal Code to eliminate the requirements of assault, intimidation, incapacity, or inability to resist for forced sexual assault (rape) so that a sex crime can be established with “non-consent” by the other party as the only requirement.

■ Extend the scope of statutory rape to victims 18 years of age or older, and make the punishment heavier.

■ Establish punishment categories for sexual activity that exploits status and relationships, such as by family members, those in leadership positions (teachers, staff of facilities, etc.), and superiors at work.

■ Raise the age of consent for sex [currently 13], which is too low, with a drastic review.

Spring-Voice is an organization that started in 2017 to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to fight for legal reform of the sexual violence law. 

Human Rights Now is an international human-rights advocacy NGO based in Tokyo, Japan. They work to eliminate violence against women and on the human rights of victims left behind by businesses within and outside the country. 
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Voice Up Japan empowers people regardless of gender in a society where it is difficult for people to raise their voices. It is an organization that educates, highlights “gender problems” that cannot be taken up, and raises issues for reducing discrimination and crimes related to gender.
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