Let’s change outdated rape laws and support Shiori Ito

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Who are we?

We are a Japanese led group of volunteers based in the UK, Japan and Germany. Among us are survivors of rape and sexual assault, teachers, human rights activists, and students of Japanese language and culture.

What we all have in common is our support for the journalist and activist Shiori Ito and our anger and sadness at the pace of change, when it comes to amending Japan’s law on rape, improving institutional support for victims, and education around this issue in Japan.

You can read more about Shiori’s case, and how to donate money to her here.


Our petition

With this petition, we are demanding to change a Japanese law that has evolved very little in over 110 years. Even after several landmark cases in politics, the police force and the legal profession change has been incredibly slow.

Under Japanese law, the absence of consent is not sufficient grounds for rape. Some form of physical assault, intimidation, or inability to refuse is strictly required. This puts the burden of proof on the victim not only to prove that the assault took place, but also that they resisted forcefully. This situation could be exceedingly dangerous, or impossible to do for the victim.

There are not enough places where people can safely and securely report rape. Many victims do not know how to report rape and sexual assault, or where to go to seek help. According to the UN's Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women, one rape crisis centre should be established for every 200,000 people. In Japan, this should mean there are 327 centres in the country, but as of March 2020, the number remains at just 2.

Amending the current law is crucial, but by no means a sufficient step to challenging social attitudes towards rape and sexual assault. There remains a pervasive view that, when it comes to sex, a woman’s “no” often means “yes”. This is against a backdrop in which Japan was ranked 121st out of 153 countries in terms of global gender equality. Reforms to education are vital in order to foster a view that enthusiastic consent is a necessary part of sex.

Japan continues to fall short of recommendations by human rights organisations, and calls by Japanese activists to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16. While some prefectures set the age of consent higher and the government has made moves to end child marriage by 2022, the constitutional age of consent sets a poor precedent for protecting adolescents from sexual abuse.

With this in mind, we make the following demands of the Japanese government, in line with changes proposed by human rights groups in Japan, as well as by the United Nations and also Amnesty International, to ensure that definitions of rape globally are based on consent:


1. We demand that the criminal code is amended as follows:

- That definitions of rape are based on consent. For rape to be defined as penetration of the vagina, mouth or anus by a penis, or other article, without consent or where the perpetrator does not reasonably believe that consent has been given. A person will be deemed not to have consented if they are incapable of doing so.

- The requirement of the perpetrator to have used violence or force against the victim to prove rape be scrapped. There are many reasons why a victim might not be able to resist, including fear (which can cause them to freeze), sleep, sluggishness, or the effects of drugs or alcohol.

- The age of sexual consent is raised from thirteen to sixteen.


2. We demand that the response of police and prosecutors be improved:

- It is standard procedure in Japan, to have victims re-enact their rape with life-size dolls in front of police officers and photographers who are often all male. This traumatising experience has been called the ‘second rape’. We demand an end to this practice immediately.

- That a room where the victim feels safe and secure is provided when they come to file a rape report. For instance, female victims of rape should always have the option to be handled by female police officers, and interviewed by female police officers.

- To improve awareness among police officers of the importance of preserving evidence of doping, intoxication and DNA, as well as recording all interviews properly to avoid victims having to repeat their experiences many times.


3. We demand better support for victims of rape including:

- Urgently, the establishment of more rape crisis centres. The guidelines for operating these centres should be reviewed.

- Better training for those who support victims of sexual violence including those in the police, medical care, education and government.

- Strengthening support for men and LGBTQ+ victims of sexual abuse.


4. We demand better education and awareness about rape:

- That sex education be taught in schools, including the importance of establishing consent before and during sexual intercourse. We want teachers to get better training to be able to educate on this topic. To promote an individual’s freedom and right to their own body.

- That victims be made aware of support services available to them. Such as counselling and rape crisis centres, through the allocation of government funds to raise awareness that services like these exist.


5. We demand that sentencing and other methods for dealing with perpetrators of rape are reviewed:

- To strengthen measures to prevent repeat rape offences, in line with UNESCO guidelines.

- To improve correctional programs for repeat offenders. This depends on a continued and voluntary commitment to correctional programs, not only during but also after the sentence.

- To strengthen the system allowing national and local government to obtain information about perpetrators for the purposes of preventing repeat offences.


Donating money to Shiori Ito

Journalist Shiori Ito was raped by a more senior member of her profession, as determined by the Civil Court in Tokyo on December 18, 2019. A symbolic figure for Women’s Rights in Japan, her public rape case is the first of its kind seen in the country and has started a long overdue conversation in the nation about attitudes towards women.

Court proceedings in Japan are very expensive and bringing people to justice is costing Shiori both emotional and financial labour. Your donations will aid her campaign to make the attitude of Japanese society towards victims of rape fairer.

To donate money to Shiori please visit her Just Giving page.

Here is a clip from the BBC documentary Japan's Secret Shame. It shows Shiori Ito recounting her "second rape" with a life-sized doll when she went to report it to the police.

More Information

A Japanese language version of this international petition can be found here.

Supported by Human Rights Now.

We are not associated with any political party and our demands are not party political.