Japanese military rarely apologizes for sexual harassment case

TOKYO: In a rare confession of sexual harassment in Japanese armyOn Thursday, the army chief apologized to a former soldier for the suffering caused by a group of soldiers.
Yoshihide Yoshida, head of Japan‘s Ground Self-Defense Force, said an internal investigation has found evidence that several military personnel were involved in the case brought by former soldier Rina Gonoi last month.
“As a representative of the Ground-Self Defense Force, I offer my deepest apologies to Ms. Gonoi for the pain she has suffered for a long time,” Yoshida told a news conference. “We offer our sincere apologies.”
The investigation is still ongoing and further details, including the attackers and their sentences, were not released on Thursday.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada earlier this month ordered a ministry-wide investigation into increasing reports of sexual assault after Gonoi made allegations of harassment of her and others.
Gonoi came forward in late August to request a new investigation into an alleged attack on her in 2021 by former male colleagues. She also said she had received information from 146 military personnel who said they had been harassed while on duty.
The ministry said the number of different types of harassment complaints increased from 256 in 2016 to 2,311 last year.
In a country where gender inequality remains high, sexual harassment is often ignored and the #MeToo movement has been slow to take off. But Japanese women are starting to talk.
Earlier this month, Gonoi filed a petition with the Defense Ministry signed by more than 100,000 people seeking re-examination of her case by a third party.
She said that in August 2021, in a dormitory on a training ground, three senior male colleagues pressed the lower part of their bodies against her, forcing her to spread her legs, while more than 10 other male colleagues watched and laughed, but no one tried. to stop them.
Gonoi said in a statement that she has filed a case with the ministry, but the investigation was not properly conducted and local prosecutors dropped the case in May.
A month later, she left the military and made her allegations known on social media.
Gonoi said she felt her case had been quashed and she should raise her voice because there could be more victims if she didn’t.
The Ministry of Defense sent investigators to the regional army division that oversaw the unit where Gonoi served. It has also established a panel of outside experts to review anti-harassment measures and study the causes of the recent increase in reported cases.
Gonoi said she came forward in hopes that the issue would be mitigated and that the ministry would release the findings in her case and take strict disciplinary action against the alleged attackers.
The ministry found more victims in other cases, Kyodo News Agency said, and the final report is expected soon.

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