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Japan PM Kishida calls on army to prevent harassment

Tan KW
Publish date: Mon, 27 Mar 2023, 01:01 PM
Tan KW
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TOKYO : Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the country’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) must prevent harassment from occurring after a female former soldier went public on “routine” sexual harassment in the Japanese army.

Kishida said on Sunday (March 26) that harassment “shakes the foundation of the SDF, which is a human-centred organisation”, the Kyodo news agency reported.

“I want those set to play a central role in the SDF to reaffirm this point,” Kishida added in his speech at a National Defence Academy graduation ceremony.

His speech came after 23-year-old Rina Gonoi went public with claims that she was sexually assaulted by multiple male colleagues after she joined the army in 2020.

She said they would comment on the size of her breasts, hug her suddenly from behind in the hallway, or press their crotches against her.

In one instance, her breasts were groped by male servicemen who also forced her to touch their private parts.

Gonoi quit the SDF in June 2022, after the military stonewalled her and refused to act on her reports of routine sexual harassment and even violent sexual assault.

Her story has rippled across Japan, with five servicemen given a dishonourable discharge last December and another four officers, who ignored her pleas for help, suspended or given verbal cautions.

More than 1,400 people - both men and women - have submitted their own allegations of sexual harassment and bullying in the military following a special inspection by the Defence Ministry in 2022.

Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said in his speech at Sunday’s graduation ceremony that there is a need to create an environment where people can play an active role in the SDF, regardless of their gender.

There are about 19,000 female SDF members nationwide, out of a total of about 230,000.

The Defence Ministry hopes to grow this number, saying in its 10-year security road map issued last December that more women were necessary to maintain the SDF, given Japan’s ageing population, to “prevent the decline of war-fighting capabilities due to mid-career retirement, but also for securing qualified human resources”.

 


  - ANN

 

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