• Kyodo

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Around 2,500 cases of nonconsensual sexualized images objectifying athletes being taken or shared have been reported to a website set up by the Japanese Olympic Committee last November, Kyodo News learned Saturday.

The figure stood at around 1,300 in early July but has nearly doubled in the past three months through Friday, with the increase believed to be a result of increased awareness of the issue due to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and a series of arrests.

The issue first surfaced in August 2020 when former national team athletes complained to the Japan Association of Athletics Federations of having photographs of a sexual nature taken of them while they competed.

It is almost a year since seven bodies including the JOC released a joint statement pledging to eradicate such abuse, condemning the taking of images and distributing them as “despicable acts.”

“It’s really important the issue is not being forgotten,” JOC executive board member Keiko Momii said. “We’ll keep informing people on this issue regularly so people can keep it in mind.”

During the Tokyo Games, the German women’s gymnastics team wore body-covering unitards instead of the customary bikini-cut leotards in a move that the German Gymnastics Federation said was a stand against sexualization.

In May, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested a 37-year-old man for alleged copyright infringement after he posted images of several female athletes without permission on a porn website he operates, their first arrest based on information gathered by the JOC.

Also in June, a 57-year-old man in nearby Chiba Prefecture was arrested on suspicion of damaging the reputation of a female athlete by posting a video he secretly took of her in a sexualized context on a porn site.

The action taken on the issue has apparently served as a deterrent. In those cases that have been pursued, roughly half the material related to them was found to have been deleted.

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