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News Navigator: What new protections does Japan's expanded anti-stalking law offer?

A Metropolitan Police Department patrol car. (Mainichi)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about Japan's expanded stalking controls set to be implemented in 2021 following revisions to the law.

    Question: I hear Japan's stalking controls are being strengthened. What does this mean?

    Answer: Due to issues including numerous cases of former partners obtaining their ex-partners' locations using GPS technology and smartphone apps without permission, revisions to the Anti-Stalking Act were passed on May 18. Now, placing a GPS tracking device on a car or other locations will be illegal. The new controls go into effect from Aug. 26.

    Q: So, this means more protections for victims?

    A: Yes. Until now, the act only included controls against repeatedly sending messages to victims by telephone, fax, emails and social media, but since June 15, letters and other forms of written communications have also been included. There had been instances where perpetrators rejected by email or other services resorted to sending their targets letters.

    Furthermore, provisions have been expanded against staking out certain spots to watch people, or forcing entry into a location. Now, the locations covered by the law are not limited to an individual's residence, place of work, school or other areas they commonly spend long amounts of time. Places they attend, such as eateries and event venues, are covered now, too.

    Q: How are perpetrators handled under the law?

    A: They can be warned by police, and local public safety commissions can issue them with prohibition orders. If they persist after those measures, they can be arrested. Punishments for flouting a prohibition order include a prison sentence of two years or shorter, or a fine of 2 million yen (about $18,000) or less.

    Q: Are there any other preventative measures being taken against perpetrators?

    A: From fiscal 2016, police have been able to recommend perpetrators get treatment such as counseling at medical facilities. In 2020, 882 people were recommended for the services, but just 14% took up treatment. National Police Agency investigations into how to prevent recurrences are ongoing -- from 2021, they are considering compiling and assessing data on the rate of repeat stalking offenses.

    (Japanese original by Naritake Machida, Tokyo City News Department)

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