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Rape cases rise 27% in Japan in first half of year after law change

Japan saw a total of 601 reported rape cases (including incapacitated rape) in the first half of 2018 -- 26.8 percent more than during the same period the previous year, National Police Agency (NPA) data has shown.

The agency believes that changes to the definition of sexual intercourse and expansion of the law to cover more victims have played a part in the reported increase of 127 cases, which comes one year after a revision to the Penal Code toughened penalties for sex crimes.

The Penal Code revision came into effect on July 13 last year, changing the Japanese term for rape to one that translates directly as "forced sexual intercourse, etc." and eliminating a requirement that the victim needs to file a criminal complaint before a case can be prosecuted. The definition of rape was also broadened to include male victims.

A crime was also newly established to target parents or guardians who abuse their position to conduct sexual acts on children under the age of 18, even if such acts are not accompanied by violence or threats, along with a crime covering indecent acts by guardians.

According to the NPA, males were the victims in 29 of the 601 recorded rape and incapacitated rape cases in the first half of the year, and there were 27 cases in which the crime covering victims in the custody of perpetrators would apply. The number of cases in which people were apprehended over the newly defined crime of rape reached 535, or 104 more than during the same period the previous year. Another 23 were apprehended for sexual offences as guardians. In 14 of those cases, the victims were either adopted children or stepchildren, and nine were birth children.

An NPA official commented that revision to the law may have also built momentum for victims to report sex crimes, contributing to an increase in the reported number of cases.

(Japanese original by Toshiaki Uchihashi, City News Department)

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