The Western Herald

Japanese rapes show how far women have yet to go

by Duane Gundrum
February 22, 2005

I recently read about a sex orgy case that took place in Japan. The story indicated a soccer team from a Japanese elite university met in an apartment and took turns having sex with a 16-year-old high school girl. The orgy lasted for seven hours. It began with a man who was the girlfs friend inviting his soccer mates over and giving them the gift of gbeing laidh by a high school girl. The incident was brought to trial and the first four players were sentenced this week. They were sentenced to one year in prison but their sentences were suspended to three years. The judge argued that the boys were already penalized harshly enough because their soccer team had been suspended, and they deserved some leniency because they had apologized to girl.

To me, they did not deserve this leniency. They abused the girl. And even though I do not know any details on what the girlfs position was in this incident, I learned while reading about this case that the girl had been unhappy with her life at the point when the incident happened.

Now, it may seem weird to you that I feel strongly that these men got off too easily, especially since I do not know many details about the particular case. However, I have read about some more rape and molestation cases in Japan and could not believe how easy they got away with it.

Take the case of the gang rapes in the Super Free club at Waseda University, one of the more prestigious universities in Japan. This club organized several parties where women were deliberately made drunk to the point where they lost control of themselves. Then those women would be taken to another room where they would be raped by several of these young men. Often pictures were taken during the act intended to blackmail the girls if they decided to report the incidents. The first sentences in this case were decided last April. Three men that participated in the rapes were sentenced to prison for 28 to 32 months. Yes, you read correctly: months. That is less than three years for rape. The harshest sentences decided in this case are for those who organized these parties, encouraged and participated in the rapes; their sentences were 7.5 to 14 years in prison.

To be honest, this is nowhere near enough. Just take sentences in other cases from Australia or the United States where offenders who repeatedly participated in gang rapes were sentenced from 30 to 55 years in jail.

Also consider that the minimum penalty for robbery in Japan is five years. The minimum penalty for gang rape is two years. Last November, the Japanese Diet (Japanfs Congress) increased it to four years. Yet, stealing something is still considered a worse crime than raping someone. To me that is added insult to the injury. Those women will be damaged for life; they have been robbed of their trust and innocence. They will feel shame for the rest of their lives. One of the victims to this day suffers from insomnia. Yet, their offenders might be free again in three years and at the most in 14 years. Some of the offenders hoped their sentences would be suspended because they showed remorse, had paid some compensation and were first-time offenders. Well, they committed a crime. What they did was not just a joke gone wrong, it was a heinous crime.

Furthermore, I do not think these sentences will be efficient to deter others from such deeds. There are rumors that parties like these have happened at other universities. Last September, two students were arrested for attempting to rape a woman, and just in December, when the 15 soccer players were arrested, another five baseball players from a different university were arrested because they had repeatedly molested a young woman on a commuter train.

And finally, what does this suggest about the status of women in Japan? The high school girl in the first case was, after all, considered to be a gift of one soccer team member to his teammates. The gang rapes at the Super Free Club were to create solidarity among the club members. This is male bonding at the cost of womenfs well-being. Those women were tools to create solidarity; they were objects. But women are human beings, they have feelings and they deserve respect. Rape is a crime, not a sport, not a fantasy and not a party event.

Melanie Kintz, a Western Herald opinion columnist, is a Ph.D. candidate from Leipzig, Germany, studying political science.