Eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls (To CSW57)
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
November 14, 2012.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations is a non-governmental organization in special consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council.
Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unfair power relationship that has existed between men and women. It permits control and discrimination by men against women and obstructs improvement in the status of women. Violence against women impedes each individual woman’s enjoyment of her freedom and her basic human rights. It holds down the general status of women and acts as an obstacle preventing women from realizing goals shared by international society such as equality, development and peace.
All physical as well as sexual and psychological violence against women and girls affecting their cycles of life, such as domestic violence , sexual abuse, sexual harassment occurring at the workplace, education institution or other places as well as human trafficking and forced prostitution, should be eliminated. International society has devised solutions against these kinds of violence and made continual efforts but these are still inadequate and the freedom and rights of women and girls are not adequately fostered and protected.
Even in Japan where the government has made certain efforts, the main problems of violence against women still exist, and sexual crimes, sexual harassment, domestic violence, child abuse and sexual abuse of children as well as trafficking in persons etc. occur frequently. In 2010 up to 2090 people were pointed out to the public prosecutors offices for violations of the Act on Punishment of Activities Relating to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Protection of Children, and this number increases annually. “Sexual harassment” comprises the majority of consultations concerning the Equal Employment Opportunity for Man and Women Act convened by the regional employment equality consultation bureaus, with more than 10,000 cases being heard annually.
These current conditions in Japan are not unrelated to Japan’s historical background that for so long has let systematic and social male domination of women go by. Before the World War II as women were routinely deemed inferior to men, the former Civil Code denied the legal capacity of women under the system of patriarchy, and women were denied suffrage. Although the Constitution stipulates gender equality since its enactment in 1946 and the Civil Code was also revised, our society has not yet gotten rid of the influence of historically formed male domination.
An example would be the extremely narrow interpretation of the legal elements comprising the crimes of rape and forced indecency “violent and threatening” that require “remarkable compromise of the other party’s resistance”. It is therefore difficult to establish a case when it is not accepted that the victim puts up frantic resistance, when it is held that the victim had an ingratiating attitude or in such cases when for example a senior relationship is used as psychological force for sexual harassment. This, and things like the existence of myths about rape and the extremely low compensation payouts for cases of sexual harassment and sexual violence, make it clear that even in the judiciary, which is supposed to be the last bastion of protection for human rights, gender bias is deeply rooted. In 2010, a suspended sentence was given in 59.0% of rape crime cases which is extremely high, compared with 17.9% of robbery crime cases.
Further, the social structures such as disparity and discrimination between men and women in the workplace, a lack of women executives and a failure to reflect women’s thinking in political decision-making venues also serve as a significant source that obstructs eliminating violence against women. Because discrimination between men and women has changed form into a kind of disparity caused by employment formats that includes a number of men, not only has it become difficult to spot discrimination, but this change has in some respects come to help foster it. Accordingly, in order to eliminate violence against women there is an urgent need to eliminate discrimination against women in the workplace and to increase the number of female political representatives.
In Japan, even while subject to expressions of concern and admonitions concerning ”Japanese military comfort women” problem from United Nations human rights treaty organizations and the Universal Periodic Review etc., the problem has still not been resolved and further action by politicians is required. The fact that ”Japanese military comfort women” problem has not been resolved means that violence against women and the problem of violence against foreign women are viewed lightly.
Moreover, in Okinawa there have been many cases in which women and girls became victims, for example those cases of rape etc. committed by US military personnel stationed there. Just recently, on October 16, 2012 there was a case in which a woman was subjected to a gang rape which shows that there is an urgent need for action.
In order for women to live in peace and safety in Japan, a proactive, sincere response from the government is required. We must strive to eliminate violence against women and girls, with all men and women standing together in solidarity from Japan and abroad including the United Nations.