Incest ruling infuriates entire nation

Cases of child sexual abuse are through the roof in Japan.

So too are cases of children being coerced into sending nude photographs of themselves to older men.

The numbers in both categories are staggering, but the sexualisation and exploitation of children and teens in Japan is nothing new. It's ingrained in popular culture.

In most Japanese cities, men wanting to access child pornography can find it easily. It only became a crime to possess it as recently as 2014.

But it's what's still legal that's most troubling. The BBC reported last year there are 300 cafes around the country where adult men can pay to spend time with underage girls.

"In some cafes, men can also pay for walking dates - time with the girls away from the cafe. What happens in that time is up to the girls and their clients," the report reads.

Manga comics that feature sexualised imagery of young girls are still very much available too.

It's against this backdrop of the casual sexualisation of minors that a court in Okazaki, 178km from Kyoto, found a man not guilty of sexual assault in March despite admitting to having sex with his daughter.

"Despite recognising that the 19-year-old victim had sex with her father against her will in 2017 after having been sexually abused by him for years, the (court) acquitted the man, ruling that (his daughter) could have resisted if she had wanted," a report in the Japan Times reads.

Consensual incest between adults is legal in Japan.

In another case in March, a court in Fukuoka acquitted a man of raping a woman after she passed out from drinking alcohol. The court found the man "misunderstood" the woman and thought she had given consent.

The cases became the catalyst for a series of protests that have since spread around the country.

Women and men have gathered in public spaces in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya holding signs reading "No Means No" and "MeToo".

Japan's National Police Agency released a report last year highlighting a shocking rise in the number of child abuse cases.

The report revealed police investigated more than 3000 child pornography cases in 2018 - up 28.3 per cent from 2017.

Of those, 541 children were coerced into sending nude photographs of themselves to adults.

The record figures, which included hundreds of cases of child sexual abuse, led a UN panel to express concern over the "high level of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation of children" in Japan.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child asked the Shinzo Abe-led government to "prioritise the elimination of all forms of violence against children".

Part of the problem is how deeply entrenched the sexualisation of children is. Japan tried without success to ban manga comics featuring sexually explicit cartoons of young girls, but publishers protested and got their way.

The UN's special envoy on child protection said in 2015 loopholes were allowing the problem to continue.

"When it comes to particular, extreme child pornographic content, manga should be banned," Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said.

But manga translator Dan Kanemitsu hit back. He accused Ms de Boer-Buquicchio of "mixing reality with fiction", The Guardian reports.

"There is no such thing as manga and anime child pornography," he said.

"Child pornography entails the involvement of children, and we must confront it for that reason.

"Many male and female artists in Japan draw characters in an art style that looks childish to Western eyes. Therefore it is a rejection of an art style popular in Japan."

But the groundswell against explicit content - and against the courts - suggests the culture in Japan might be changing.

Holding flowers at events around the country, women are pushing back.

Minami Ejiri, 28, was part of the Flower Demo demonstration in Nagoya this week.

She told the Japan Times the status quo was not good enough.

"Let's keep raising our voices against something irrational," she said. "Although we are nobody, we are not alone."

The national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service in Australia is 1800 RESPECT


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