Domestic violence in Japan hits record high in 2009

Domestic violence in Japan increased 11.7 per cent in 2009 to 28,158 reported cases, the highest since surveys began in 2002 according to the National Police Agency (NPA).

The number included 2,429 serious cases where courts issued restraining orders against partners, spouses or other family members under the domestic violence prevention law, the NPA said.

A further 1,658 cases of domestic violence were handled under other laws, including 552 assaults, 853 injuries, and 44 murders or attempted murders, they added.

In 2008, a government survey of 1,358 women with current or former partners found that 33.2 per cent reported suffering physical assaults, psychological threats or sexual coercion from their partner.

However, about half of the victims never reported the incidents nor mentioned them to anyone, the Cabinet Office said in its report.

Asked why, 50 per cent of these silent victims said that they did not consider the problem serious enough, and 36 per cent said they blamed themselves.

‘Some women think some of the fault might be theirs,’ said Mie Ueda, an executive board member of Japan Women’s Shelter Network for victims of domestic violence.

‘The first thing that I tell a battered woman is, ‘You are not the one in the wrong’,’ she said.

Experts and activists claim the incidence of domestic violence is likely to be much higher than reported, since many Japanese people still regard violence against women as a family matter rather than a violation of the women’s human rights.

‘One of the biggest problems is that the commercialization of women’s bodies is taken for granted in Japanese society,’ Ueda said. ‘The media have also failed to provide a serious debate about the issue of domestic violence.’

Activists, lawyers and victims have long been pushing for more effective laws to protect victims of domestic violence.

In April 2001, the Japanese Diet passed a law – which came into force in October 2001 – allowing courts to impose restraining orders on abusive husbands. In 2007, the remit of this law was extended to included unmarried partners.


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