Global Human Rights Defence

Insufficient Supply of Security for Women in Japan Meets Increasing Demands for Justice, Where is the Equilibrium?
Source: Orange The World, Impakter, 2021

Department: Japan

Author: Naomi Loond

Shiori Ito – a woman who became the face of the MeToo Movement, and voiced the issues of how sexual violence is dealt with in Japan – came forward with her story of being raped in Japan and the mistreatment she incurred from the police. When she went to the police, they asked her to reenact her rape. In the past decade, multiple women in Japan have come forward with stories that not only highlight the horrors of sexual violence but their mistreatment and lack of protection under the law and from law enforcement. She said that while she was at the police station “I had to lie down on the floor and they placed this doll on top of me and started moving it”, they started asking her if this is how the rape took place. She called this a “second rape”. Since then, many more women have come out with similar stories about how the police have asked them to reenact their traumatic experience, causing them to undergo more psychological trauma and potentially pushing some women to not come forward with the crimes committed against them.


In July of 2021, the British Embassy in Tokyo released an informational report titled: Japan: information for victims of rape and sexual assault. They highlighted that using a “dummy” to reenact the assault was common practice, and traumatizing for many. They also discussed how difficult it can be to prove assault in Japan. Since force and intimidation needs to be proven, many victims are asked difficult questions, have to reenact their rape, or are sent back to the setting of their rape so they can recount the event to the police. Although they comply with these difficult investigative procedures, many cases do not go to court. Recently, in 2019, a case caused a lot of outrage amongst women. A 19-year old girl was raped by her father; however, because it could not be determined if she had resisted, he faced no consequences. Due to the strict wording of the Japanese penal code, the father received no punishment.


In the past year, a councilwoman accused the mayor of her town (Kusatsu) of rape. She was discredited and criticized by the public as a whole. This eventually led to a vote where 90% of the inhabitants claimed she ruined the town’s reputation, resulting in her being voted out of her seat.8 This depicts political inequality (which is considered as discrimination against women) as a result of sexual violence.


Rape and sexual assault within Japanese domestic law

Japanese national legislation has incorporated norms to respond to situations of sexual violence. Thus, in criminal matters, for example, the Japanese Penal Code of criminal law in Articles 176, 177, and 178 refer to forcible indecency, rape and quasi-forcible indecency and quasi-rape.


It is important to note that there is no mention of consent, nor whether saying no and still being assaulted is enough to prove force.

International Law and Women’s Human Rights

Japan has signed (17/07/1980) and ratified (25/06/1985) the Convention Eliminating Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Article 1 highlights the main basis of what is considered as discrimination against women. Although the CEDAW includes protection for women from gender inequality such as political and employment bias, it does not create obligations that highlight women’s sexual safety from assaulters and sex offenders. There is a lack of explicit reference to sexual violence.


In 1992, the Committee highlighted that Article 1 goes hand in hand with gender-based violence as it inflicts “deprivation of liberty” and rights such as “the right to life” and the right to freedom of torture among others. Besides, the Committee made 24 relevant recommendations related to further protection against violence toward women. Some recommendations include overcoming all forms of gender-based  violence (recommendation: 24 (a)), protection for women from family violence (recommendation: 24 (b)), and creating support services for victims (recommendation: 24 (k)).


The recommendations themselves are ones that should be followed by every State, but as they are not obligatory or legally binding, there is no mandatory need for the State to follow them.

In 2009, the Committee released the concluding observations concerning the situation in Japan. Upon examination, concerns arose about the lack of protection for women. The Committee urged the State to address violence against women as a violation of human rights. They urged the State to follow these recommendations:

  • Compensation for victims
  • Educate the public
  • 24/7 free hotline with counselling
  • Protective services for immigrants and vulnerable women
  • Ensure law enforcement is capable of providing adequate support for victims

The Committee also encouraged the State to make the prison sentence for rape longer, and change their penal code to rape so it states, “crimes involving violations of women’s rights to bodily security and integrity”.

Multiple women have come forward about their mistreatment by the police. Some have even claimed that the police have seen the perpetrators as victims, and the men have faced little to no prison time for the crimes they committed. One woman who was raped and abused by her husband was put into a “shelter” for women, but she claims it was more like a prison as she was not allowed phone calls, had no windows and was not treated as a victim. This shows recommendations concerning the protection of immigrants, and adequate support for victims are not being pursued by the State.

Another treaty that Japan has ratified is the Convention against Torture (CAT). This treaty contains legally binding articles that Japan has been in breach of because of their lack of protection and mistreatment of women suffering sexual trauma. Article 1 clearly states that any form of pain inflicted by a third party through intimidation or coercion on the basis of discrimination can be seen as torture. This can be argued to be a direct breach of the Convention by Japan. The World Organisation Against Torture and Asia-Japan


Women’s Resource Center released a report called: Violations of Women’s Rights in Japan, Alternative Report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. This report stated that victims are made “uncomfortable” and are “humiliated” by the behaviour and treatment of law enforcement officers and that these agents “remain unable to pay attention to victims” emotional needs”. The report goes on to say that training for law enforcement officers is needed to not only better support victims, but also decrease the burden of proof on them.


Reality in Japan

Japanese criminal law states that to prove rape there has to be proof of intimidation or violence, but coercion can take place through the absence of violence so it remains unclear if lack of consent aids in proving rape. Since any form of sexual assault can be and is considered torture, cases – such as the father assaulting his daughter – are required by the law to be considered torture and therefore require legal action; however, due to the specific wording in the penal code, many offenders go free without imprisonment or jurisdictional consequences. According to the Ministry of Justice figures, on average, more than half of accused assaulters who are arrested, later get their charges dropped by prosecutors. A poll done in 2019 asked 1,344 Japanese men and women “Do you think that Japan is too forgiving of sex offenders?” of which 86.5% said “yes”.


Author Hernon for Tokyoweekender stated that as the prison sentence for rape is less than for robbery, this can be seen as unreasonable considering that rape is regarded as a form of torture. Rape victim, Catherine Jane Fisher, stated that the police made her reenact her rape while the officers were laughing. She considered this “horrific” and described it as being struck by two swords. First with the rape, and second with the treatment she received by police and criminal courts.Having to reenact a traumatic event inflicts psychological torture.

As sex crimes against women continue to occur, and the involvement of law enforcement in aiding those victims remains low, more and more women are joining together to fight against the horrific treatment they have received, seen, heard about, or are in opposition of. In 2019, the social movement, “Flower Demo” kicked off with women participating in events to protest against sex crimes and sexual violence. Since their inception, an increasing number of women continue to join them. On International Women’s Day 2020, their events were held in 33 prefectures, gaining increasing amounts of attention for the issue of sexual violence. The event helps unify women who have been treated unjustifiably for sexual crimes done against them.

In order to find a resolution to the fight for human rights for women, it is essential that Japan revise their legislation and take into consideration the recommendations given to them by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. It is the State’s responsibility to ensure that all citizens receive equal rights, opportunities, and protection. The government should devote more time to guarantee that women are protected against sexual violence.



About Flower Demo. (2021). Retrieved 22 November 2021, from


Adelstein, J. (2016). The dubious cost of sexual assault in Japan. Retrieved 21 November 2021, from ult-japan/

Baseel, C. (2019). Japan too soft on sex offenders, vast majority of survey respondents say.

Retrieved 21 November 2021, from

-surve y-respondents-say


Cariou, L. (2021). Orange The World: 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence Begins. Retrieved 24 January 2022, from



Hernon, M. (2017). Why Sex Crimes in Japan Go Unreported | News & Opinion. Retrieved 21 November 2021, from orted/

Japan: information for victims of rape and sexual assault. (2021). Retrieved 21 November 2021, from data/file


.p df


Lee, H. (2021). An Afghan Refugee’s Shattered Japan Dream. Retrieved 15 November 2021, from


Our Work. metoomvmt. (2021). Retrieved 13 December 2021, from


Penal Code. (2021). Retrieved 21 November 2021, from


Royer, Y. (2020). Ousting of councillors prompts concern over silencing sexual assault victims in Japan. Retrieved 21 November 2021, from n-ove r-silencing-sexual-assault-victims-in-japan

Small army of Japanese women confront grim taboo subject by saying ‘me too’ – Global Times. (2018). Retrieved 21 November 2021, from


UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), CEDAW General Recommendations Nos. 19 and 20, adopted at the Eleventh Session, 1992 (contained in Document A/47/38), 1992, A/47/38, available at: [accessed 21 November 2021]


UN General Assembly, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 18 December 1979, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1249, p. 3, article. 1, available

at: [accessed 21 November 2021]


UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – Japan, 7 August 2009, CEDAW/C/JPN/CO/6, (p. 6, 7) available at: port/asia/japan/japan%20cedaw%20co.pdf?vs=4813 [accessed 22 November 2021]


UN General Assembly, Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 10 December 1984, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1465, p. 85, available at: [accessed 21 November 2021


UN General Assembly, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 18 December 1979, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1249, p. 3, article. 1, available

at: [accessed 21 November 2021]


View the ratification status by country or by treaty. OHCHR. (2021). Retrieved 10 December 2021, from



December 2021, from


Zenebe, B. (2021). Cracking Japan’s Systemic Sexual Abuse Culture. Retrieved 21 November 2021, from



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.