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Although incestuous abuse of a female child by her own father takes place frequently in Japan, the Japanese media refuse to critically discuss it, regarding it mostly as a plain taboo. Meanwhile, the Japanese legislature and the judiciary collusively dismiss this crime against humanity, thereby encouraging it.

During the summer when “Chitose” (not her real name) was 11, she was at home with her father one day watching TV in the dining room, when he suddenly grabbed her breast for a few seconds. According to Chitose, now an adult, “It was as if an atomic bomb had been dropped during peacetime.”

As a girl, she could not consciously deal with the reality that her father, whom she trusted, had suddenly transmuted into a sex offender. She repressed the memory for five years.

Recently, Chitose filed a civil lawsuit against her father. Judge Hiromi Morita of the Kyoto District Court states in her judgment: “It is observed that the plaintiff remembers this defendant’s act as the betrayal of her deep trust and respect of the defendant. On this point, the defendant testified that he thoughtlessly touched the plaintiff’s breast to measure how much the plaintiff had grown.

“According to the overall purport of the pleadings, it is recognized that (since birth) . . . the defendant took care of the plaintiff and was deeply interested in the plaintiff’s growth; and that the defendant touched the plaintiff’s breast for only a few seconds in his dining room where he happened to face the plaintiff.

“Given the context in which the act was committed, the defendant’s intention, the kind of relationship established between the defendant and the plaintiff, the act should not be judged illegal or beyond the limit of what is commonly accepted by society.”

The daughter appealed to the Osaka High Court, but Presiding Judge Seijiro Shimada dismissed the appeal on similar grounds last May.

The dismissals implicitly endorse the classical principle of the coalescence (reciprocal growth) between rights and duties stipulated in Hegel’s “Philosophy of Right”: “a man has rights insofar as he has duties, and duties insofar as he has rights.” In other words, insofar as the father fulfilled the parental duty of taking care of his female child, he had the right to touch her breast.

Conversely, precisely because the father fulfilled the parental duty of taking extensive care of his child since the child’s birth, the child deeply trusted and respected the father. Inevitably, the 11-year-old child was traumatized and felt deeply betrayed by the father’s act.

The case situates itself in a legal system and society that generally continue to dismiss female-child incestuous abuse by the father. For example, legislative dismissal is apparent in the unjustly short period in the statute of limitations for bringing a charge of child molestation (seven years for sexual assault excluding rape, 10 years for rape irrespective of the victim’s age).

This critically short period for child molestation, which plainly ignores the psychology of the child victim, is one of the causal factors in the repetition of virtual impunity in cases involving incestuous abuse by the father.

Lawyers who specialize in sex crimes report that they frequently receive complaints from adults molested during childhood, yet by the time these survivors realize that they were subjected to sex crimes, the terms of the statute of limitations act to obstruct the administration of justice, according to a questionnaire survey conducted between 2000 and 2001 by the Japanese nongovernment organization Anti-Pornography and Prostitution Research Group.

On one hand, Japanese media and law journals regard incestuous abuse of children as plain taboo, continuing to avoid public discourse of the subject with few exceptions. On the other hand, incestuous abuse of female children is one of the most popular subjects of pornographic videos and DVDs in Japan, which are judicially authorized to be produced and sold in the name of freedom of expression.

According to the aforementioned NGO survey, a lawyer reported that a father who habitually watched child pornography forced his 4-year-old daughter to spread her legs and placed his fingers inside her. Another lawyer reported that a father forced his 12-year-old daughter to watch a pornographic video with him and then raped her afterward.

According to the Central Child Welfare Office of Kanagawa Prefecture, between 2000 and 2003, 61.1 percent of child sex-abuse acts known to the office were committed by the children’s fathers.

Similarly, according to a 2001 investigation by professor Soichiro Hagiwara at International Buddhist University and his colleagues, of the 166 child sex-abuse cases treated by eight Child Welfare Offices throughout Japan, fathers were the perpetrators in 64.5 percent of them.

Realizing the social implications of her own case, Chitose appealed to the Supreme Court of Japan in August. She is asking the court to enforce Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — which in part says “all human beings are equal in dignity and rights” — as well as integral provisions concerning human rights in the Japanese Constitution (Article 13 and 14) — which in part say “every person is respected as an individual and equal under the law.”

This gross social injustice should no longer be dismissed.

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