Friday, June 27, 2003

Gang rapists are "vigorous" and therefore "normal"

According to the BBC, during a debate about Japan's declining birthrate, Seiichi Ota, a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said that at least gang rapists had a healthy appetite for sex and that "[g]ang rape shows the people who do it are still vigorous, and that is OK. I think that might make them close to normal."

After female legislators issued a joint statement on Friday condemning the remarks as an insult to all women, as well as many other legislators speaking out against the comments, Ota was reprimanded by LDP secretary-general Taku Yamasaki.

After the reprimand, Ota told reporters on Friday that he deeply regretted the "inappropriate, exaggerated expression" and that that his comments "needed to be considered in context."

What context could there possibly be for making this sort of statement acceptable? Well, I can't think of any, but according to him, the context was as follows:

The remarks came as the veteran politician attributed the country's declining population to a lack of courage among Japanese men to enter into married life, the Mainichi Shimbun reported.

Asked by the debate's moderator whether this explained the behaviour of five college students who were arrested earlier this month for gang raping a peer, Mr Ota said that rape showed a healthy attitude.

"I know I'll get in trouble for saying that, though," he reportedly added.

He now says that he "wanted to add that rape is a serious crime that should be punished severely." But, even if he had added that, would that have changed the offensiveness of his statement? Not even close. As Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pointed out: "Rape is an atrocious act of cowardice and has nothing to do with virile qualities." He couldn't be more right. Rape -- particularly gang rape is not about sexual virile-ness, it's about power, control, and entitlement. And to take it a bit further:

Yasuyuki Takai, vice chairman of the Japan Federation of Bar Association's committee on victim support, said Mr Ota's remarks were indicative of Japanese society's passive attitude to rape, which often goes unreported.

"It shows that in Japan, rape is not thought of enough as an awful act... Japan's social views against incidents of rape need to be made more strict," Mr Takai told the French news agency AFP.

Prison sentences for rape in Japan range from two to 15 years, but it is unusual for a sentence to be more than five years.

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