TOKYO (AFP) – More than 100,000 people signed a petition demanding an independent investigation into the alleged sexual assault by a colleague of a female former Japanese soldier to the defense ministry on Wednesday (August 31). .

The case is a rare example of a public allegation of sexual assault in a country where government data shows that only 4% of rape victims report the crime to police.

Rina Gonoi, 22, claims she was assaulted by several male colleagues during training in 2021, one year after enlisting in the Ground Self-Defense Force (SFS).

She made her allegations public after prosecutors dropped a formal investigation into the case, citing insufficient evidence.

“There are many others, including a former senior female colleague who faced sexual harassment,” she told reporters after a brief meeting with Defense Ministry officials in Tokyo to submit the petition. told to

“I thought nothing would change unless someone stood up and acted.” Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense Jiro Kimura, who received the petition, said the government was investigating Mr. Gonoi’s allegations.

“The Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces take a strong stance that sexual harassment should never be tolerated,” he said.

Gonoy said there was no guarantee of an apology from the ministry as her allegations are still under investigation.

flood of suspicion

Gonoi enlisted in the Ground Self-Defense Force in April 2020, inspired by his childhood experience of watching the military help residents of his home prefecture of Miyagi after the March 2011 tsunami. did.

After a year on the job, she was placed in a group for a month-long training in the mountains.

She claims that two of her superiors, who had been called by a male colleague who was drinking and were talking about martial arts, instructed their subordinates to use Gonoi techniques.

One of the men squeezed her neck, pushed her to the ground, forced her to spread her legs, and pressed her groin repeatedly. Then two others did the same.

When Gonoi reported to the Self-Defense Forces’ sexual harassment counselor, an investigation proceeded, and he was referred to the public prosecutor’s office on suspicion of obscenity.

However, the case was dropped earlier this year due to insufficient evidence, local media reported.

She then launched an online petition calling for a “fair investigation, punishment, and apology,” which by Wednesday had over 106,000 signatures.

It also sparked a flood of more than 100 allegations of sexual harassment and bullying in the Japanese military from women and men, which Gonoy filed with the ministry on Wednesday along with her petition.

Although Japanese women are highly educated and make up a large portion of the workforce, the country consistently ranks low in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.

This is largely based on the shortage of women in politicians and at the top of companies, and the wage gap between male and female workers.

The #MeToo movement has been quieter in Japan than in other developed countries, despite a high-profile case in which a female journalist accused a former TV reporter of rape.

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