• Kyodo

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Ten of the nation’s 48 public shelters for women suffering from abuse or poverty were used sparsely or not at all in fiscal 2015, and support groups are urging that their strict usage regulations be eased, a survey showed Monday.

The 48 shelters are hosted by 39 prefectures and mostly run by the prefectural governments. They offer support and job training to help women lead independent lives.

Many of the shelters accept people with mild psychological disorders or learning disabilities. The occupants usually stay for more than a month, but some stay for over a year. The shelters usually have enough capacity to accommodate five to 30 people.

They were originally set up to shelter former prostitutes after prostitution was banned in 1956 but later came to support victims of domestic violence, poverty or other problems.

According to the survey, three shelters in Ibaraki, Saitama and Yamaguchi prefectures had no residents, and seven shelters in seven prefectures including Akita and Ehime had only one.

The low level of usage is believed to reflect the strict regulations imposed in response to the rise in domestic violence. Most of the 10 shelters who took in no or only one resident offer temporary protection to domestic violence victims.

To prevent information on such victims from leaking, which could endanger them, the facilities have adopted a policy of only accepting people who pledge to adhere to strict rules regarding ownership of mobile phones and going outside.

A shelter official said many women dislike the rules for living with others so much that they are refusing to enter the shelters even if they need long-term support.

The situation stands in stark contrast to some private shelters that are being overwhelmed by women in need of help, a member of a supporters’ group said.

“It is necessary to revise rules on facility use to make it easier to use for women who’ve come to a dead end and are asking for help,” said Ikuko Abe, a professor at Fukushima University’s graduate school.

In some areas, public shelters remain empty while similar private-sector facilities are crowded, said Keiko Kondo, director of the National Women’s Shelter Net.

“It should be public organizations that accept people facing serious problems,” Kondo said.

Yumeno Nito, the head of Colabo, a support group for young female students abused by parents or suffering from poverty, said that even if such girls visit consultation offices, it does not immediately lead them to be admitted to public shelters.

“We need a system that would allow them to directly contact the shelters.”

Some of the 48 facilities have many admissions, with six in six prefectures including Miyagi and Kagawa logging more than 21 residents each.

Five shelters in Tokyo have a combined 80 residents and two in Osaka had a total of 158 residents, the survey said.

Many of those facilities said they in principle tried to accept women who have no place to go by bending the guidelines on conditions of use.

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