Japan SDF faces harassment investigation after sexual assault complaint

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Former Ground Self-Defense Force Private First Class Rina Gonoi, front right, is seen at the Ministry of Defense in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district on August 31, 2022. (Mainichi/Yohei Koide)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and Ministry of Defense will be thoroughly investigated over harassment, the ministry said Tuesday, in a rare move by its chief after an allegation of sexual assault by colleagues of a former member of the FDS.

The investigation into various types of harassment by a defense watchdog was ordered by Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada about a week after Rina Gonoi, 22, submitted a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to the ministry last Wednesday, demanding a full independent investigation into the matter that occurred. while a member of the Ground Self-Defense Force in August 2021.

Gonoi alleged that three senior male colleagues forced her to the ground by her neck, spread her legs and repeatedly pressed their crotch against her in a dormitory at the training site in northeastern Fukushima prefecture. is. She claims to have suffered many other incidents of sexual harassment in addition to this particular case.

Hamada told a press conference that he had ordered the Office of Inspector General for Legal Compliance, a special unit under his control, to inspect harassment, including bullying and abuse of power, for “eradication”, citing the growing number of cases of harassment among SDF members. , a profession that is still predominantly male.

Regarding Gonoi’s case, Hamada said an investigation is ongoing, adding that he has dispatched a prosecutor who is from the Office of the Inspector General for Legal Compliance, as well as an assistant prosecutor’s officer who is on loan. to the ministry, to a GSDF unit in the northeast Tohoku region to further investigate the matter.

“Harassment is a violation of basic human rights. It should never happen that harassment harms the strength of the SDF,” Hamada said. However, he avoided saying that Gonoi’s allegations are what prompted the ministry to decide on the planned total inspection.

To fundamentally review the ministry’s countermeasures, a panel comprising experts from the judiciary, medical, media and business communities will also be set up, according to Hamada.

The number of consultations in the ministry regarding acts of harassment in the SDF was 2,311 for fiscal year 2021, which ended in March this year, compared to 256 for fiscal year 2016, the ministry said.

According to the Ministry of Defence’s 2022 annual white paper, the number of female members of the SDF stood at around 19,000 in March, up 8.3% from 5.4% a decade ago.

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