Sexual Assault in Japan: How Laws Keep Victims From Receiving Justice

Sexual Assault in Japan: How Laws Keep Victims From Receiving Justice

In 2017, Japan revised laws regarding rape to make penalties harsher and change the standards for what is considered rape for the first time in over a century. However, they failed to change a harmful and dangerous part that still exists today: prosecutors must provide evidence that the victim actively and physically fought against the perpetrator, that it was not possible to resist. This law completely undermines the idea of “yes means yes”. Under this definition, how are victims who were under the influence of psychological manipulation supposed to get justice? 

This issue was brought to light in early 2019 when a father who was accused of raping his own daughter was acquitted. The court recognized that he sexually abused and had non-consensual sex with her. Imagine your guardian or someone else you trust rapes or sexually abuse you. Would you be able to resist easily despite the abuse of power? Unfortunately, acquittals in rape cases are not uncommon in Japan. Miyako Shirakawa, a psychiatrist who was raped when she was 19 years old, shared that her body froze during the incident. This is a common reaction by many survivors and a form of psychological protection. Victims like her won’t be able to get justice under this system as they didn’t physically resist. 

The underlying problem with the laws in Japan is the culture. イヤよイヤよも好きのうち, a quote that literally translates to “the more nos the fonder they feel” is a quote that has been passed down from generation to generation, sending young girls and boys the wrong message. It summarizes the culture in Japan which praises male chauvinism and romanticizes sexual boundaries being crossed. This explains the pattern in Japanese mangas, animes, movies, and TV shows – a weak girl falling in love with a violent and attractive male through initial force. Rejection isn’t seen as telling someone to stop. Instead, it is seen as a sign to show dominance and power over the girl. In addition, when a woman faces sexual assault, the blame is often put on her. Whether it is for the way she dressed or for failing to preserve her chastity, the victim often feels guilty and shameful for what has happened to her. Only 5% of rape is reported to the police in Japan. This means that a majority of  victims don’t believe they will be taken seriously.

We must go against this toxic culture and reinforce the idea of consent being necessary from both sides before having sex. We can do this by supporting movies and TV shows which portray healthy relationships and by supporting a culture that respects consent. When these reforms in 2017 were enacted in Japan, parliament called for a review in 2020. If we spread more awareness about the issue with the current law and call for change to occur, the public criticism could pressure parliament to make these changes. This reform does not just impact current victims. By advocating for this change, we are creating a society where we will be listened to if it was us in the situation. So let’s work together and fight for “yes means yes”.








#MeToo運動中に生まれた「believe women」等のスローガンは往々にして、男性達の真実ではない有罪をつくってしまうことになっています。それにも関わらず、裁判で聴衆は女性や証拠のみを信じることを選択せざる得ません。



I am a 16 year old girl in Kyoto, Japan and the founder of SHEQUALITY. After living in the United States for eight years, when I moved back, I saw tremendous issues relating to the treatment of women. When I turned on the news, I rarely saw women in high positions within the government. Many of my female friends at school expressed they didn’t see themselves working in the future, a large distinction to what I was used to in the United States. Most families I met here had a father who worked and a mother who didn’t.Menstrual pads and tampons were packaged away in brown paper bags for no one to see. Seeing these issues with my own eyes made me want to do something to raise awareness about the culture and laws that support the current society today, which was the start of SHEQUALITY.