The army commander of Japan on Thursday apologised to a former soldier for the misery brought on by a group of service members in a rare acknowledgement of sexual harassment in the military. The director of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force, Yoshihide Yoshida, stated that an internal inquiry discovered evidence that multiple personnel were involved in the lawsuit presented by former soldier Rina Gonoi last month.
At a press conference, Yoshida expressed the Ground Self Defense Force’s genuine regret for the long-term anguish Ms. Gonoi had to endure. Additional information, such as the identity of the attackers and the severity of their punishment, have not yet been made public since the investigation is still underway.
After Gonoi raised charges of harassment against her and others, Japan’s Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada earlier this month ordered a ministry-wide probe into the rising number of reports of sexual assault. Gonoi came forward in late August to ask for a new investigation into an alleged assault by former male coworkers on her in 2021.
She added that 146 service members had informed her that they had experienced harassment while on duty. According to the ministry, there were 2,311 reports of various forms of harassment in 2017 compared to 256 in 2016. Sexual harassment is frequently ignored in a nation where gender inequality is still quite high, and the #MeToo movement has been reluctant to gain traction. However, Japanese women are now speaking up. Gonoi presented a petition to the Defense Ministry earlier this month with more than 100,000 signatures asking for an independent review of her case.
She claimed that in August 2021, three senior male coworkers forced her to spread her legs in a dorm at a training facility as more than ten other male coworkers looked on and laughed, but none intervened. Gonoi claimed in a statement that she filed a complaint with the ministry; nevertheless, the investigation was improperly handled, and local prosecutors withdrew the case in May. She left the service one month later and made her accusations public on social media. Gonoi claimed that she believed her case had been dismissed and that, if she didn’t speak up, there might be further victims.
The regional army division in charge of Gonoi’s unit received investigators from the defence ministry. It also established a committee of outside specialists to assess anti-harassment policies and research the factors contributing to the recent rise in reported occurrences. Gonoi claimed that she came forward in the hopes that the issue would be resolved, the ministry would make public its findings in her case, and severe disciplinary action would be taken against the alleged attackers. According to Kyodo News agency, the ministry discovered additional victims in other cases, and the final report is anticipated soon.