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Editorial: Bold efforts needed to make Japan's new anti-sexual violence measures work

The Japanese government has adopted a set of policies to beef up measures against sexual violence. The move marks the first time for the government to hammer out comprehensive steps to fight against damage from sexual misconduct.

The measures include a broad range of schemes, such as promoting education and awareness about sexual violence, enhancing support for victims of such crimes and the prevention of repeat offenses.

The government has set a time frame of up to fiscal 2022 to strengthen these efforts. It will put together concrete methods and target schedules to implement the measures by the end of July.

The latest steps came in response to the so-called "Flower Demo" movement in protest against sex crimes and sexual violence, which has spread across the country since last year. The new schemes must be swiftly put into action.

Japan lags behind other countries in sex education. The new measures are a step toward improving the situation as the government has demonstrated the need to provide education that would prevent children from becoming perpetrators or victims of sexual violence and abuse.

As schools are said to play a major role in promoting such education, the fresh schemes also set examples for instruction methods in accordance with children's growth stages.

There are cases where children are unaware of being subjected to sexual violence and abuse and later suffer serious damage. There are also many cases in which the perpetrators are relatives of the victims.

At issue is how to prepare a system for teachers to provide preventive education. It is essential to create programs based on expert knowledge and give training to teachers and other school personnel.

The new measures offer a chance to cooperate with obstetricians and gynecologists who are independently engaged in the promotion of sex education.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology should properly incorporate such education programs into school curriculums so there are no disparities among educational institutions.

With regard to assistance for victims of sexual violence, the government cited the enhancement of one-stop support centers that will provide medical treatment, psychological care and legal advice to victims. While those centers have been set up in each of Japan's 47 prefectures, there are some facilities whose systems and collaboration with medical institutions are insufficient. The government is urged to get actively involved in their operations.

The newly adopted schemes also include an examination of a system to track down the movements of sex offenders who were handed suspended sentences or are on parole by attaching GPS devices to their bodies to prevent them from committing repeat offenses.

The government aims to conduct a two-year study on similar systems in other countries and their effects in preventing recidivism before determining whether to adopt such a system in Japan. Ample discussion on the matter is called for as GPS tracking concerns the human rights of offenders.

It is also necessary to review the Penal Code to introduce provisions to punish sexual intercourse without consent, among other measures. The Ministry of Justice has set up an expert panel to address the issue. It is imperative to develop legal systems that can respond to the actual state of damage from sexual offenses.

Sexual violence is described as "murder of the soul." Victims of such assaults incur tremendous damage both physically and mentally and have difficulty in leading their daily lives. In order to eradicate sexual abuse, it is vital to exercise wisdom and ingenuity to enhance the efficacy of countermeasures.

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