National universities penalized 16 teaching staff in the 2000 academic year for sexual harassment, a sharp increase from the three instructors punished a year earlier, according to documents released Saturday by the Education Ministry.

The rise was attributed to the growing awareness of the issue, as evidenced by an increasing number of schools encouraging victims to report harassment and the introduction of government regulations to curb such incidents.

Documentation on the penalties imposed on teaching staff between 1996 and 2000 was released by the ministry after a request under the information disclosure act.

The documents show that in the 2000 academic year, which ended in March this year, two perpetrators were fired, seven suspended, three were given pay cuts and four were reprimanded. The victims in all 16 cases were students.

Key details, such as the names of those involved, where and when the acts took place and what exactly transpired, were blacked out in the released documents.

But when information previously released by universities is taken into account, some of the censored details can be deduced.

The two staff members fired in the 2000 academic year, for instance, were a professor at Saga University and an associate professor at Tohoku University.

But other incidents that occurred in 2000, which were of a malicious nature and extended over a long period of time, did not result in instructors being fired.

For example, one staff member was suspended for six months after maintaining a sexual relationship with a student whom he blackmailed and choked, among other offenses, and who was eventually forced to take a leave of absence from school.

In another case, a teacher who repeatedly groped a student in a car was suspended for three months.

The total number of teaching staff who were penalized for some reason remained around 10 during each year from 1996 through 1999, but rose to 37 in 2000, largely due to a rise in sexual harassment cases.

Of the 37, four instructors were sacked including the two who were fired for sexual harassment. The other two were fired for paying for sex with minors.

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