TOC(ja) Souron  A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L  IkenTeishutu NGO Report Preparation Committee
TOC(en) Overview  A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L  Contributors

Women 2000, Japan NGO Alternative Report
by Japan NGO Report Preparatory Committee, 1999.08.13
Jump to Top of this page

D. Violence

      The Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) states in Paragraph 112 that "(v)iolence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedom." It is striking to see the way in which the work on violence against women and combating it has greatly expanded since the Nairobi Conference, especially after Beijing. In May 1999, the Office for Gender Equality, of the Prime Minister's Office, submitted a report "Toward a nation without violence against women." It clearly states that an investigation of violence against women is urgently needed, indicating that it is necessary to devise measures including legislation. The report, however, does not have a comprehensive understanding of the issue as a social problem but shows a tendency to view it as a private matter. The UN's 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women makes a definitive statement that it is unable to solve the problem without taking society into consideration. Such a perspective is of critical importance in the case of the aforementioned investigation.

  1. (1)Overall policy reflecting the actual conditions of violence against women
  2. (2)Prostitution
  3. (3)Domestic Violence (DV)
  4. (4)Sexual Harassment
  5. (5)The police's attitude toward a victimized woman
  6. (6)Problem of Sexual Slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army and 'the National Fund

return to index

1. Overall policy reflecting the actual conditions of violence against women

      The biggest drawback of the government report is that it does not reflect the actual conditions of violence against women in this country and lacks perspective in terms of overall policy.

      The Anti-Prostitution Law states an obligation to establish women counselors and women's consultation offices in all prefectures of Japan. Consultations at these clinics and with the counselors are mostly directly and indirectly connected with violence against women. The main task of these counselors and women's consultation offices has been to help and protect women suffering from sexual violence and to support them to become independent, mentally and economically, since the enactment of the Anti-Prostitution Law.

      Until around the mid-1970s, since there was almost no supporting policy to protect those women searching for help from their violent husbands, the temporary care and protection facilities of women's consultation offices practically served as emergency evacuation homes for those women and their children. In every prefecture, to a greater or lesser degree, one of the top reasons to come to these clinics for help has been to escape from violence from intimate partners, such as husbands and boyfriends.

      At not only the above-mentioned facilities but also all over Japan, seeking advice on violence against women is increasing; a variety of physical, sexual and psychological abuse including violence from partners, unwanted pregnancy, and traumatic experiences regarding sexual abuse in childhood. Also noticeable are inquiries from mentally and/or physically disabled women. There are many and frequent reports of sexual violence against those women, in cases where men look after women who are developmentally and/or physically handicapped. Recognizing these circumstances, we must say that the government report runs counter to the reality, stating that the aforementioned facilities only serve as evacuation homes for women survivors. In reality, those government-run facilities, which were originally established under the Anti-Prostitution Law, have only a limited number of rooms available and are giving way to NGO-run women shelters and hot-lines that are serving as emergency evacuation facilities. Japanese national and local governments should, therefore, take immediate measures such as reconstructing the women's consultation offices as public shelters and clarifying women counselors' specialties.

      The mass media unforgettably reported many cases of violence against women and children in the towns and shelters that were thrown into confusion in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck the Kansai area in winter 1995. The police report of the same year, however, drew a conclusion that there were less violent cases in number, compared to the previous year. An investigation into violence against women in the earthquake-stricken district has never been carried out to date, though it has been well over four years since the natural disaster. Both the national and local governments in Japan lack the perspective to include the issue of violence against women into its disaster prevention and recovery policy. It is crucial that local governments are placed under an obligation to work on the prevention of violence against women at the time of natural disasters and to take prompt relief measures for its victims. In 1994, Korean women were frequently the targets of violence; suspicion over North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons marked the start of incidents whereby zainichi Korean school girls in their ethnic costume had their chima (Korean skirts) clipped off (Note: zainichi is a term for people of Korean ancestry who were born in Japan but are not given Japanese citizenship due to their Korean descent). Similar malicious incidents still occasionally occur because of the recent missile disturbance. This is a structural problem against minority women for which measures should be immediately taken by the government.

      We should not overlook the violence in the media, including rape scenes, which the mass media, especially TV, constantly broadcast. Also typical of the media that commercialize women sexually in our everyday life are men's weekly magazines, pornographic comic books, as well as advertisements that overemphasize women's sexuality. Discriminatory expressions based on gender is a human rights violation and perpetuates violence against women. Human rights awareness/educational activities toward people in the media and a government investigation on the mass media are necessary.

return to index

2. Prostitution

      The Entertainment and Amusement Trades Rationalizing Act has a weak point in that it permits the sex industry to be in business, providing certain rules are upheld regarding where and when such businesses are run. Restrictions on the place of business are ostensibly to prevent juveniles from entering prostitution, yet practically, contribute toward a densely built-up, and therefore convenient, area for business. The law and the current situation authorizes the sex industry, which has long been regarded as a loophole in the Anti-Prostitution Act. Protection of the rights of women working in the sex industry is not the traders' concern but is supposed to be taken care of by the individual women themselves. This makes it more difficult for women to complain about human rights violations and/or fight for their own rights, regardless of their nationality. Therefore, it is necessary for local governments and/or government corporations to set up facilities to which women in the sex industry can go for help and advice.

      The Entertainment and Amusement Trades Rationalizing Act was made a partial amendment in 1998. Accordingly, it makes it easier for foreign women workers to escape from slave-like work conditions, prohibits brokers from confiscating these women's passports and imposing debts on them. Yet there is also a fear of ignoring foreign women working in the Japanese sex industry. The human rights of immigrant workers must also be protected by the government, regardless of their status of residence.

      In Japan, women from Thailand, Columbia, China, Taiwan, Korea, and the Philippines are targets of human trafficking. Due to the economic downfall in Japan, the conditions which such women endure are more severe than ever. Yet they cannot run away from their circumstances; in many cases they are heavily in debt, and strictly under the control of debtors. These women are often resold several times at the debtors' convenience, which only increases their debt. Even though they could manage to return to their home countries, they are frequently sought out by their brokers, brought back to Japan, and/or killed in some cases. There are more than a dozen ways in which a foreign woman can be brought into Japan; through an entertainer's or a spouse visa, as an adopted child, or by making her pretend to be Japanese. A more severe punishment for these brokers is necessary. It is unfair to arrest and punish those women rather than the brokers. If the prosecution subjected these brokers to punishment only for illegal activities that will merely lead to delays in finding a solution to the real problem. We need to exterminate the brokers with international police cooperation as well as protect these women in accordance with the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of others. Giving a simple work visa to foreign workers could be one of the fundamental solutions. Domestic workers, also known as "maids," are also forced to work for an embassy or a foreign employee assigned to this country by being dispossessed of their passports or being kept in actual detention. These women are all outside the Japanese legal system and cannot make a complaint in an isolated workplace without social or any other type of security, even if they suffer from violation from their employees.

      The "Telephone Club" is a hotbed of sexual abuse for girls. There is neither a legal punishment for men who pay for girls nor a legal or medical system in place to protect the girls. These girls do not have a place to go or a reliable adult to turn to for a help. They should not be left isolated any more; the government should support them so they can obtain the right to sexual self-determination.

return to index

3. Domestic Violence (DV)

      Domestic Violence (DV) is a violation of human rights and yet is hardly regarded as a crime. In a male-dominated society, it is considered that a husband or a close friend is allowed to beat a woman and that a woman should tolerate such treatment. As a result, it is difficult for a female victim to speak up and get any support from her relatives, community or government.

      There are two factors contributing to the existence of DV; the attitude of the police and the financial dependence of women on others. This is clear from the survey conducted by "Feminist Counseling in Sakai" in 1997 (investigating 229 victims of DV). Among the responses to the survey are some cases concerning the attitude of the police; for example, when a woman reported a violent crime to the police and the police found that the abuser was her husband, they did nothing to help. When a woman was battered at night, the police just told her to be quiet because it was late at night and left the house. Since this kind of crime is likely to continue, an effective step should be taken upon the first report to the police.

      DV also exists among non-Japanese women. In divorce cases, such women worry about whether or not they can remain in Japan and get custody of their children, and also about what would happen to their family in their home country waiting for the money they would send; as a result, they often run away from their abusers at a later stage when the damage has got worse. In spite of the great anxiety resulting from their ignorance concerning Japanese laws and customs as well as their poor Japanese ability, public institutions don't understand their situation or offer proper treatment to them.

      It is necessary that police personnel, law enforcement officers, judicial, welfare, educational, and medical workers should work in closer cooperation with non- governmental women's groups that are responsible for shelters and counseling activities. In particular, the government should give financial support to shelters. In addition, legislation against domestic violence is necessary. Legislation which defines DV as a crime guarantees security with prompt and adequate treatment, and provides support for recovery and penalties for the offenders.

return to index

4. Sexual Harassment

      Sexual harassment has continually damaged women in schools, the workplace, and the community. In court women have revealed that oppressive power based on unequal gender structure in various fields causes sexual harassment. Industries use sexual harassment to enforce retirement upon women in order to reduce the staff as part of restructuring. In case of sexual harassment on campus, when a faculty member enforces his power on a graduate student, a staff member, or a part-time instructor, saying 'no' means that the victim is going to leave education and, therefore, this is a very serious problem. The Campus Sexual Harassment National Network was founded in 1997 and the members have exchanged information, set campus guidelines, and appealed to the government.

      Although the rules of the National Personnel Authority and the Revised Equal Opportunity and Employment Law stipulated the obligation to make arrangements for preventive measures against sexual harassment, it is not easy for victimized women to speak out and get help, as long as support in coping with sexual harassment is limited to administration or industry. It is just the same in educational organizations; making only surface arrangements does not work so women still have to ask for help outside the school. It is necessary to change a law or rule so that an outside organization can cope with the problem.

return to index

5. The police's attitude toward a victimized woman

      Sexual violence occurring in the area of American military bases is very serious. In Okinawa, many women work as entertainers or hostesses at bars. Crimes of sexual violence against these women are regarded as their own fault and few women bring a suit to court. Women associating with American soldiers are regarded as 'ame-onnna' and discriminated against by others, including the mass media, implying American soldiers' concubine. The closer the relationship between offender and victim, the more difficult the damage is to report. Most of the offenders are victims' acquaintances. Only one percent of women in all cases screamed and ran away from the offenders. Nevertheless, the judicial judgments are still based upon how much a woman resisted the offender's advances.

      In sexual violence crimes, the possibility of indictment is extremely low even if victims report to the police. It is said that the prosecutor does not indict if he or she is convinced that the case is anything less than 100 % certain. It means that a victim is deprived of even the right of a legal trial.

      Unless a victim reports a sexually violent crime within 6 months of the identification of the perpetrator(s) of the incident, the latter will not be prosecuted for the crime, according to the Japanese legal system. Yet it is difficult for the victim to make a decision regarding whether or not to pursue legal action for such a limited period of time. Therefore, it is necessary to delete both the "6-month provision" out of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the peculiar prosecution system based only on complaint out of the Penal Code. If there is a request from a plaintiff in a criminal or civil trial, the hearing should be conducted behind closed doors and the public and the defendant should be excluded from the court.

      It is also necessary to conduct gender-sensitive training to the judicial and administrative officials and also to set up a prohibitive and preventive law against violence toward women containing the content in the above, with the revision of the present law in order to raise consciousness among the whole society.

return to index

6. Problem of Sexual Slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army and "the National Fund"

      Women (Korean, zainichi Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Dutch) who were coerced by the Japanese Imperial Army into providing sexual services have brought legal actions against the Japanese Government for compensatory damages and an official apology from them.

      The Special Report on Rape and Sexual Slavery, the McDougall Report, adopted by the Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in the Commission on Human Rights in 1998, gave advice on the criminal prosecution and penalties to offenders, to abolish the vicious practice of no punishment on wartime sexual violence.

      "The National Fund of Asian Peace for Women (the National Fund)" established by the Japanese Government in 1995 is a system which pays the victims compensation, from donated funds by the public to express an apology from Japan. Administrative expenses, medical treatment and welfare are to be covered by the government itself. The victims, however, refused to accept the money, saying that "the National Fund" represented neither an official apology nor state restitution, but was merely set up by the Government to evade taking responsibility. Understanding how the victims feel, some Japanese people have started a campaign against "the National Fund" which has spread throughout the country. The Fund's purpose is just to give money to the victims. It ignores that the women ask for the rehabilitation of human rights and justice, and its concept that "each citizen bears some responsibility so should express his/her apology" is mistakenly perceived as acquitting the accused. This movement against "the National Fund" affected the victims' governments. The governments of Taiwan and Korea provided the victims with supportive money, the sum of which equals "the National Fund." On the other hand, the Filipino Government in financial difficulty did not take this step and most of the victims in this country are in poverty. Therefore, many victims have received money under the reason of "a victim is old and ill." It is said that some victims in Korea have been given the money secretly.

      The other problem of "the National Fund" is that it has caused divisions among the victims themselves, victims and support groups, and members of supportive groups in terms of whether they should accept the money or not. In addition, there is a section in "the National Fund" which gives a subsidy for groups engaged in human rights activities. They make approaches to non-governmental women's groups to apply for the fund; some groups accept and some do not, even if they are in financial difficulty, which results in conflict and divisions among them. Women's groups have requested a separation of the subsidy section from "the National Fund" program.

return to index

NGO Report Preparation Committee TOC(ja) Souron  A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L  IkenTeishutu
TOC(en) Overview  A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L  Contributors

fem-net Page prepred by fem-net Women2000 team
Go to fem-net Home Page (en) .