Japan must stamp out the impunity granted to people who sexually exploit children, including light sentences and the reluctance to prosecute, to overcome the nation’s “institutional” tolerance for such crimes, a U.N. expert said Monday in Tokyo.
“Investigations and prosecutions are hardly ever initiated without a complaint lodged by the child victim. . . . The few cases that are prosecuted often end up with convictions that are suspended or entail low penalties, such as fines,” Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, U.N. special rapporteur on child prostitution and pornography, said during a news conference at the Japan National Press Club.
De Boer-Buquicchio recently wrapped up an eight-day inspection of the situation surrounding sexual abuse in various parts of Japan, including Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa.
The visit marked the first time the Dutch lawyer had conducted a comprehensive examination of sex crimes in Japan. She met with representatives from the government, law enforcement and the judiciary, as well as with nongovernmental organizations and victims themselves.
The impunity enjoyed by sex offenders in Japan is “relatively high” compared with other developed nations, and the entrenched hesitation by police to take action struck her as “exceptional,” De Boer-Buquicchio said.
This, coupled with the low penalties that signify Japan’s “social and institutional tolerance” for related offenses, leaves victims susceptible to repeated exploitation, she said.
In Japan, “abusers and offenders can walk under the sun, while victims have to live in the shadows,” she quoted one of the representatives she met during the visit as saying.
De Boer-Buquicchio said she welcomed the amendment to the child prostitution and pornography law last year that criminalized private ownership of child abuse material.
But she nonetheless suggested Japan can do more to tackle the situation, such as by outlawing online viewing of such material and banning manga with “extreme child pornographic content.”
Among the Japanese forms of child sex abuse investigated by the U.N. expert were the so-called JK (joshi kosei, or high school girl) industry, and chakuero, erotica that portray preteen schoolgirls in sexually provocative attire.
Aside from stiffening the penalties for sex offenders, Japan must implement a more “comprehensive strategy” to battle the root causes, such as poverty and gender inequality, De Boer-Buquicchio said.
To this end, she advised adopting measures such as increasing one-stop crisis centers, establishing complaint mechanisms for child victims and providing support for children with disabilities and young mothers.
Her findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Human Rights Council of the U.N. in March.
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