March 28, 2023

A former Japanese soldier who was sexually assaulted by her colleagues said on Monday she was taking the government and the perpetrators to court over the “superficial” apologies and mistreatment she received.

The victim, Rina Gonoi, 23, had publicly denounced being assaulted by several male colleagues last year, a year after joining the Ground Self-Defense Forces.

In a country where accusations of sexual assault are rarely made in the public square, Ms. Gonoi had submitted in August to the Ministry of Defense a petition signed by more than 100,000 people asking for an independent investigation into the attacks against her, after the abandonment of a first judicial inquiry.

In December, five Japanese soldiers were fired over the case, but Ms Gonoi said on Monday the apology she had received was “superficial” and that the attackers’ lawyers continued to trivialize the incidents during talks over a deal.

“I didn’t want to choose the path of conflict, but I haven’t received a message that assures me that they really regret” what they did, she told the press.

“Given the differences on the issue between their side and mine, I think there is a need to make things (public through the legal action) which I think will prevent that it does not repeat itself,” she added.

Mr Gonoi is seeking a total of 7.5 million yen (53,000 euros) – 5.5 million from his attackers for mental distress, and two million from the government for failing to prevent the assaults and failing to investigate them properly .

The case is also being reviewed by prosecutors who are considering possible criminal charges after she filed a complaint about the lack of charges against the men involved, her lawyers said on Monday.

The army had admitted in September that Ms Gonoi was regularly subjected to harassment and sexual assault in her unit and during training sessions.

Her action sparked around 100 other accusations of sexual harassment and bullying in the Japan Self-Defense Forces, from both women and men, also submitted to the ministry along with her petition.

Japan has long lagged behind other industrialized countries in the presence of women on corporate boards and in senior public office. Government data shows that only 4% of rape victims report the crime to the police.

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