Monday, May 19, 2008

Double standards in Japan

Japan in recent years, has kicked up a fair amount of diplomatic noise over the rapes of women and some school children by American military personnel stationed in Japan. To their credit they have pursued such cases strongly and held the accused to account. However, when the same situation arises involving a foreign woman (an Australian in this instance) the police seem to have dragged their feet. Whilst the action taken in an attempt to correct the problem is admirable, one cannot help but think: if the victim had been Japanese, would the same thing have happened?

Japan pays Australian rape victim $30,000 as US sailor walks free

May 20, 2008

JAPAN will pay compensation of three million yen ($30,000) to an Australian woman who was raped in 2002 by a US sailor who never faced prosecution.

But the victim, who uses the pseudonym of Jane, says it means little because the rapist is still free.

The woman was raped in 2002 by a then sailor of the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in the naval port city of Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. Japanese prosecutors dropped the case without pressing a charge against the sailor.

The victim filed a civil case with the Tokyo District Court, which recognised the rape and gave her the right to seek compensation of 3 million yen from her attacker.

However, by the time of the ruling, the sailor had discreetly left the country without even telling his lawyer and he never paid the money. Now Japan will pay her the compensation.

"Of course, I'm deeply grateful for the Japanese Government for using the taxpayers' money," the woman, said. "But it doesn't change very much to me because this person who raped me is still walking around."

Under the Status of US Forces Agreement in Japan, compensation owed by US military personnel to crime and accident victims should be paid by the US Government if service members cannot afford to pay, but with a two-year statute of limitation.

When the court gave the ruling, the two years had already passed. Now the Japanese Defence Ministry has decided to shoulder the payment.

"No one has ever, ever tried to help [me] from the US military," Jane said.

The payment follows a series of criminal cases linked to the US military that has caused public uproar and prompted tighter restrictions on troops when off bases. In the southern island of Okinawa - home to more than half of the 40,000 US troops in Japan - a US military court on Friday sentenced a US Marine to four years in jail for sexually abusing a 14-year-old Japanese schoolgirl.

Earlier this month, a Marine was given a two-year prison term for sexual misconduct with a Japanese woman, but cleared of the charge of gang-rape.

Jane said her compensation would not change the fact that rape cases "keep on repeating over and over again".

Agence France-Presse

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