Japan saw a record number of minors fall prey to molestation, prostitution and other crimes via social networking services or online community spaces last year, and nearly all of the victims were female, police said Thursday.
The number of victims under 18 rose to 1,652, the most since 2008, when the National Police Agency started taking the tally, and 231 more than in 2014. Females accounted for 96.3 percent of those victims, an annual report by the NPA said.
Of the victims, 699, or 42.3 percent, were involved in crimes that violate an ordinance for protecting minors. They were followed by 507, or 30.7 percent, who were involved in child pornography, and 359, or 21.7 percent, who were targeted by child prostitution, the report said.
A total of 39 minors, or 2.4 percent, were victims of serious crimes such as abduction and rape, including a 16-year-old girl who was killed in Yokohama in September, according to the police.
By age, the largest number of victims were 16-year-olds, at 451, or 27.3 percent, followed by 17-year-olds at 386, or 23.4 percent. Those who were 13 or under came to 226, or 13.7 percent, with the youngest being 10-year-old girls.
The report said 226 minors were targeted via Twitter, up 118 from the previous year, followed by 203 via Gyaruru chats, up 116, revealing that social media apps are a hotbed for child prostitution.
Twitter bans those under 13 from using its service, but since users are not obliged to provide ID, many create accounts using fake names, the NPA said.
In addition, Twitter posts can be searched by various means, such as through certain kanji and katakana combinations that symbolize enjo kosai (compensated dating), facilitating the spread of child prostitution.
The number of victims involved in crimes related to online dating sites continued to decline to 93, down 59 from the previous year. Operators of such sites are required by law to ban posts made by people under 18 and register with the National Public Safety Commission.
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