When men’s rights activists fight to get resources, the law and even the culture reformed for men who suffer from rape experiences across a wide variety of countries, feminism often stands in the way. Indeed, it could be and has been said that the gynocentric views feminism engenders serve to strengthen the apathy to achieving justice and closure for male rape victims. However, in Japan, though the struggle to reform such social institutions may on the surface embody the same apathy toward male sufferers, the cause is not direct feminism, which is extremely unpopular among the public and often unpopular within the government, but a different gynocentric worldview and the chilling effect of Japanese lawmakers capitulating to Western ideas.
However in 2014 the government put together a special committee to meet, study, discuss and debate the information on rape with a view toward reforming national sexual assault law. The special committee released its findings in August 2015 and the following parliamentary hearing in October 2015 recommended treating males affected by the crime equally to females in every aspect, and recognized the need to change people’s perceptions about who can be affected by rape.
On October 10th Kaneko Motoki of the Asahi Shimbun (in many ways the leading newspaper in Japan) reported on the recommendations by a parliamentary committee, who by majority vote urged as reforms to national law. The process from then on involves creating a proposal and getting it passed. It is expected to pass sometime in 2016. There are five main areas of reform: 1) as mentioned, including male victims for rape charges; 2) raising the severity of sentencing in rape cases; 3) not requiring a report to prosecute rape; 4) punishing more harshly the use of social position to coerce rape and 5) expanding the definition of rape.
Let’s go over these one by one:
1) Though Japanese rape law had been modified back in 2004 to include a category for gang rape and make sentencing for rapists much more harsh, the law as it currently stands is that rape is something men do to women. If a man is raped, it can be prosecuted as “sexual assault” under a broader sexual obscenity law, but cannot be prosecuted under the terms of rape and thus female criminals automatically enjoy reduced sentences when compared to male criminals. The new law would amend this definition to something akin to “sexual violation regardless of gender.”
Of course, groups advocating for this tend to be men (particularly lawyers), but it may be surprising to hear that women-centered advocacy has also strongly recommended it.
In an article from Yomiuri Online in late November, reporting on male victims of rape, Taketo Kuroto, head of what should be possibly be translated as “group of self-reliance for male victims” called Ranka, said, “The idea that men cannot be victims, and even if they are victims, they do not get hurt is something that actually damages them. I want to communicate to men who have been raped that they’re not bad and they deserve care.” Kuroto suffers from PTSD from his experience of getting raped, trying to call a hotline and then hearing, “We don’t know what to do with male victims.” (There are currently only three known hotlines for Japanese men to access, two of them free and one for pay.) He organizes meetings for men to discuss the problem once in a year in Kanagawa City.
When referring to this part of the law to apply to men, 51-year-old Osaka female prosecute Kazuko Tanaka said, “The sense of shame and disgust, the damage done to their hearts does not change due to sex or the part of the body that was used. That their allegations should be tried under the same heavy crime should be self-evident.” At another hearing that took place on January 9th, 2016, the need to expand the definition and provide support for male victims was again acknowledged. As well, a female professor of law as it pertains to gender at Chukyo College recommends changing the definition on the basis that “many other first world nations” have done so.
That last is where the problem in advocacy comes from. There is a tendency from the Western press to label Japan’s political leanings in terms of the usual left and right, conservative and liberal sphere, but there is a dimension to Japanese politics that is often left out. Some politicians and influential thinkers constantly advocate that Japan must fall in line with the rest of the world. A different group would look at them and classify that behavior as what we call “sarumane,” or “monkey mimicking.” They would say that we can figure our own solutions and do not need to look to the West for guidance like a monkey would to a human.
This is where feminism tends to come in to Japanese politics. Feminist groups within Japan are very weak and often ridiculed by a majority of the population, including many women, who tend to despise being labeled as eternal victims. However, in a portion of the population’s zeal to appease foreign standards of modernity, they advocate for change without knowing much of the ideological basis for the change. This is why you can have these differing groups be labeled things as advocates for sexual law reform or around the considerably less controversial women’s issues label. Narratives of patriarchy, women’s oppression and rape as a form of political power are completely foreign to many of the Japanese who will be affected by these laws and who are working to change them.
Consider the case of domestic violence law reform, which happened around 2000. If you read the annoyingly misleading whine fountains who write for many Western papers, you will see a narrative that Japan was behind the West and these law reforms were a means of catching up. This is rather misleading. The issue was that the old law was based on protecting children and families by relying on neighbors and community to report suspiciously violent or sexually abusive behavior to the authorities. For decades, it seemed like this worked pretty well, and if you know how the typical Japanese community works, you’d know why. In the late 90s, suddenly the amount of cases of domestic violence increased rather dramatically (at least in Japanese terms of crime rates). Thus, it was deemed that there was a need to reform how such cases are handled and while some looked to the West for example, others wanted more – for lack of a better word – Japanese ways of handling it.
The result? Go look at any site for domestic violence in Japan and notice not only how feminine it is, but how they tend to only really acknowledge adult women as victims. The impetus for change had been to protect children, because it had been argued that they are the most disadvantaged. The laws on the books are typically Japanese, but the groups that sprung up from them used Western models for their inspiration, with no idea what they were copying. The surface was copied, while ignoring the depths. I’d like you to think about this result as I introduce the other four reforms to you.
2) Currently, rape in Japan means that you could get as little as three years, and whether the convicted rapist gets more can vary quite widely. It appears many consider this too lenient and not enough of a deterrent to potential criminals.
Indeed, upon the news of the potential change in the law, the popular social site Girls Channel, which is a platform for women to discuss feminine issues posted the Asahi article, many thought it was still too lenient. “Men or women, they should be castrated.” “Chop off his cock!” “Make it more harsh!” “I want the death sentence.” “Why don’t we just burn the Japanese symbol for criminal on their foreheads?”
Keep in mind that these women haven’t had their minds polluted by the noxious gas of academic feminism. If you ask men, you get much the same response, except with less castration comments. What is common among the Japanese populace is a blood lust for extreme punishment against crime that citizens of other countries may find alarming. When criminals don’t get the death sentence, you can sometimes find groups protesting outside loudly, to in the words of mad Queen of Hearts, “Chop off his head.”
As with anything though, opinions are diverse. Some other comments from Girls Channel: “I think that’s still too light. However, I heard somewhere that if you make the sentence too harsh, it will tend to make for criminals that kill their victims. Even still, if you look at victims like the one in the previous topic, that junior high school student, it definitely cannot be forgiven.” “What? Male victims weren’t covered in the old law? Really?” “Castrate the female rapists too.”
When on the 12th of this year, when the Network to Outlaw Sexual Violence spoke about the issue, Nobuko Oyabu, a journalist who had been raped in America in 1999, referenced the need for reparative measures other than longer prison sentences. She is quoted by the Biglobe News article coming from Bengoshi.com, a site for lawyers, as saying, “If we’re saying that if we make the prison sentences longer and longer, then the rapist will not do it again, that’s another issue. When the law gets reformed, I urge thinking about the rapist. We need to have counseling for the rapist.”
While other parts of law reform are trying to make Japanese convictions all around less Kafka-esque and fair, including reform to how cases are brought and tried, as well the introduction of juries a couple years ago, the fact remains that when arrested, the odds are not in favor of the accused. While recent statistics are more difficult to ascertain, it was not long ago that of all crimes brought to trial in Japan, 99% of them resulted in convictions. While the feminist narrative of, “I can’t walk the streets dressed like a hooker and remain safe no matter where I go and this is all men’s fault” is not at work in Japanese society at large, an unbelievably vile and vindictive justice system is one of the reasons you can find Japanese women walking down streets at 2AM drunk out of their minds and dressed like hookers, perfectly safe. Even crazy rapists are largely afraid of the Japanese justice system.
What do stronger sentences mean for men, especially if the general public isn’t even aware that previously female rapists couldn’t get convicted? Again from Girls Channel, one commenter referenced a popular male model and TV personality, “Men can really become victims? Oh yeah, now that you mention Joy said he’d received DV. I guess women can certainly be rapists too.”
3) The new law might not require the accuser to press charges in order for the police to start a case and prosecute the alleged rapist. Up until now, rape was a crime that a person must bring charges against another to prosecute. The main goal of the reform is so that sentencing can take into account cases of reported rape in child abuse, when the victim is dead or incapacitated, or for people in precarious social positions who cannot bring forth a case in fear of retribution, which are several issues advocacy groups bring up.
While good-natured in principle, it seems like it could be used to trump up false charges against innocent people. Our police are known for coercing false confessions out of innocents. Combine that with a culture that tends to bend over backwards, even more so than normal for its women, and some terribly undesirable situations can arise. At best, this change could be seen as a double-edged sword for the male sufferer of rape because at least it would be easier for them to anonymously seek justice.
The Asahi article includes two people arguing the pros and cons of this change. Shinya Sakane, a lawyer who is an apparent expert in criminal trials said, “When violated sexually, it’s hard to tell others and there are those who hesitate to have it come out in the open. If it’s not necessary to charge the accuser to begin prosecution, then against the will of the victim, cases could get tried and that is not what we should want.” His argument is in agreement with that of Oyabu. He goes on to say that it is “difficult to stop sexual crimes or prevent recidivism with harsher charges alone,” but that after the sentence has been decided “in Japan the treatment afterward isn’t good enough,” that the system should, “put ample resources into measures of how to reintegrate them into society.” If you read between the lines of Sakane’s statement, you can see that he is advocating against caution of viewing all rapists as monsters.
Tamie Kaino a law professor at Ochanomizu Women’s College and apparent expert on sexual violence disagrees. She says that making harsher sentences and removing the need to press charges will tell society that sexual crimes are taken very seriously. (I would like to introduce apparently oblivious Ms. Kaino to the reactions of the women at Girls Channel and the men who agree with them.) She also says that since around half of the committee at the hearing in October were women, that when further hearings for the reform law get heard, she wants “more than half of them to be women and people who know the extent of the crime should be heard.” She’s also critical of the next part of the law reform, saying that it’s “vague” and should not be just for “minors under 18.” Let’s look at that.
4) The fourth law reform would change prosecutions of the sexual obscenity laws that have lesser sentences and are not seen as seriously as rape into a full charge of rape, if somebody in power, such as a parent forced or coerced a minor of less than 18 years (the common example given when debated). If it sounds like statutory rape, which is already illegal in Japan, that’s only because the focus is on sentencing, rather than creating a new category. To put it simply, even if the crime is not technically rape, if it is a sexual assault perpetrated against somebody of lesser power, then it could be charged under “gokanzai,” which is the current rape law.
Why would Kaino be worried that this only applies to minors? Refreshingly enough, she and other male and female advocates have “porn victims” on their mind. Porn victims? If you listen to Kazuna Kanajiri, she says around 70% of the complaints she got in 2015 were people sayings things like they were forced to have sex because they signed a contract and were told, “Even if you cry, it’s not going to end.” (Often these contracts are vague and nebulous and as such, signed without a second thought.) Others have received threats to have their pictures published in weekly newspapers or adult magazines. Kanajiri says she gets about one of these every two weeks. However, male advocates tend to agree with a need to clamp down on this, reminded as they are of the plight of male victims. Men too will be solicited to appear in a video, raped and then have it recorded for porn.
You might think the topic of sexual harassment within companies would come up here, but if you’re a teenager or 20-something in Japan and even remotely savvy of adult society, you’ll know that this porn rape, not sexual harassment within companies, is the more pressing societal problem. You might think it odd that no one has mentioned who it is that are perpetrating these coercive porn rapes, but if you take a moment to think about famous Japanese criminal organizations, you’ll come to the answer straight away. Would integrating clauses about coercion into the new law work to alleviate this situation? Kanajiri has also advocated for stricter porn regulations and has received a lot of criticism for it and at this time, it would seem that nobody is interested in regulating pornography more. However, it would not surprise me (or anyone who isn’t a naive, delicate flower, I’d venture to suggest) if a decent chunk of male rape cases are due to sketchy porn criminals who dupe young men into situations they aren’t prepared for.
5) The last area of the law that was found to be in the majority vote and up for reform was the least controversial of them all: redefining what rape means. Why, when things like the campus rape hysteria in the West rage on, would this be the least controversial? A lot of it has to do with the Japanese language itself. “Gokan” the word for rape that is currently used in gokanzai to prosecute rapists is a combination of the Chinese character for strength and a Chinese character which combines three characters that mean woman. Essentially, when put together it roughly means “force women.” If the law is going to change to reflect female accused and male accusers fairly, it is argued that the word itself will need to change. It is after all, centuries old.
As well, it is argued that what is defined under the law as a “sexual act” needs to be changed, not because we need to accommodate a screaming me-me in a Women’s Studies course who claims she has been raped by the patriarchy because she once dreamed of a dick, but because the traditional definition needs to be changed for the benefit of men to get equal treatment.
In the end, the change in culture to widespread awareness of male rape will depend on how effective this new law is. If we look back at previous law reform, barring a major political shakeup in the parliament, we can expect the reformed law to go into effect either early this year or later this fall.
While apathy toward reforming law to prevent discrimination against men may be quite strong in the general population, let me end this by quoting a woman who wishes to remain anonymous. She was talking about the much more divisive issue of amending Article 9 in our constitution that calls for pacifism and forbids Japanese aggression in foreign conflicts with a military, one of the few political issues that will ignite a fervor in the general population. I can’t help but feel that her words would work perfectly in a context of providing justice to male rape sufferers:
“I gave birth to wonderful, spry and spirited baby boys who had the broad and seemingly endless power of modernization at their hands to experience a world their father never could. I saw all of them fall into a dark abyss in service to an empty nationalistic dream, cruelly used by their country. As one by one, I got messages of their death, I felt as though we had conspired against them, that it was the countless sharp nails of our vile attitudes that had stripped them of flesh and choked them of any remaining breath. As long as I still live, I will do anything in my power to prevent that from happening to the boys of our future.”
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