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HomeAsian NewsJapan's military launches investigation after sexual harassment complaints

Japan’s military launches investigation after sexual harassment complaints

Author: Yamaguchi Banri
Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s defense minister said he has ordered a province-wide investigation into growing reports of sexual assaults after a former soldier made allegations of sexual harassment.

Defence Minister Yasushi Hamada’s order on Sept. 6 came after a female ex-soldier, Rina Gonoi, came forward in late August to demand a re-investigation last year in the alleged assault on her by a former male colleague.

She also said she had received messages from 146 service members who said they had been harassed while on duty.

Hamada said that despite the ministry’s efforts to prevent harassment cases, the number of reported harassment cases had risen sharply in recent years, and it was time to thoroughly review the issue.

“Harassment is a violation of basic human rights. It also shakes the morale of the troops and should never happen,” Hamada said.

Hamada said the number of complaints about sexual harassment, power and other forms of harassment had risen from 256 in 2016 to 2,311 last year.

In a country where gender inequality remains high, sexual harassment is often overlooked, and the (hash) #MeToo movement has been slow to catch on. But Japanese women have begun to speak out, including some in the film industry recently.

Late last month, Gonoi filed a petition signed by more than 100,000 people with the Defense Department asking a third party to reopen her case.

She said that in August 2021, three senior male colleagues in the training ground dormitory pressed their lower bodies on top of her, forcing her to spread her legs, and more than 10 other male colleagues watched and laughed, but no one tried to stop them. She filed a complaint with the ministry, but the investigation did not proceed properly, and local prosecutors dropped the case in May, the statement said. A month later, she quit the military and disclosed her allegations on social media.

Gonoi said she felt her case had been dropped and she had to raise her voice because if she didn’t, there could be more victims.

The ministry has begun to re-investigate the case.

Hamada said he has sent prosecutors from the inspector general’s office of legal compliance to the regional military unit that oversees units where Gonoi serves.

Hamada said the ministry will also set up an external panel of experts to review measures against harassment and study the reasons for the recent increase in reported cases.

Gonoi said she hoped the ministry would publish the findings of her case and take strict disciplinary action against the alleged attacker.

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