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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Japan’s Court made landmark decision as it convicted Ex-Military’s men

Inspired by Gonoi, over 1,400 women and men reported cases of sexual harassment and bullying in the military following a special inspection by the Ministry of Defence.

Japan’s Court made landmark decision as it convicted Ex-Military’s men

In a landmark decision, the Fukushima District Court found three former Japanese army soldiers guilty in a sexual assault case initially dismissed by authorities. The victim, Rina Gonoi, a former service member, pushed for a reinvestigation, sparking a broader inquiry into military-wide harassment and challenging the prevailing male-dominated societal norms. Despite being sentenced to two years in prison, the soldiers will not serve time as the court suspended their sentences for four years. This ruling marks a rare triumph in a country consistently ranking low in global gender equality surveys, where sexual misconduct complaints are frequently overlooked, and victims often face criticism for speaking out.

Gonoi’s case, initially dropped in August 2021, was reopened nine months later due to her persistence, citing the detrimental impact on her military career. Despite facing social media backlash, Gonoi sought justice to prevent similar incidents for other female service members.

The Fukushima court found the soldiers guilty of indecent assault for pressing their bodies against Gonoi at an army training facility, despite their denial of any indecent intent. They admitted to pushing her onto a bed.

Responding to Gonoi’s revelations, the Ground Self Defense Force acknowledged misconduct, dismissed five servicemen, including the three defendants, and penalized four others. Gonoi criticized the defendants’ apology, deeming it insincere and claiming it was ordered by the GSDF.

A rare victory for many

An expert panel investigating harassment within Japan’s military and the Defense Ministry uncovered widespread cover-ups and supervisor reluctance to address such issues, urging significant improvements. Gonoi gained national and global attention when she shared her story on YouTube in 2022, prompting public outrage and a petition that compelled the Ministry of Defence to acknowledge the assault and take action.

Despite the attention, a 2021 government survey revealed that only about six percent of assault victims, both men and women, reported incidents to the police. Nearly half of the female respondents cited “embarrassment” as a reason for not reporting. Inspired by Gonoi, over 1,400 women and men reported cases of sexual harassment and bullying in the military following a special inspection by the Ministry of Defence.

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Defense Minister Minoru Kihara emphasized that such harassment must not be tolerated as Japan’s servicemembers collaborate to strengthen the nation’s military capability. Women constitute 8.7% of Japan’s military, ranking second-lowest among the Group of Seven advanced nations. This figure sharply contrasts with over 17% in the United States, more than 16% in France and Canada, 13% in Germany, and 6% in Italy.