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2008年12月23日 (火)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 22(IHT/Asahi: December 23,2008)

EDITORIAL: Domestic violence


The Nagoya District Court handed a life sentence to a man in Aichi Prefecture who had taken his former wife hostage at his home, shot and killed a police officer attempting a rescue operation, and shot and injured three others.


The man's violence against the woman was the cause of their divorce. However, he suspected her of having an affair and demanded that they get back together, leading to the tragedy.


As a result of the man's actions, a 23-year-old policeman was killed, leaving behind a daughter who was only 10 months old at the time. A 55-year-old policeman now uses a wheelchair due to paralysis, and the man's own son and daughter have been traumatized by the fact that their father shot them.


The motive for the incident seems to pale in comparison to the serious crimes he committed. The sight of the man with his head down as he listened to the judge hand down the sentence was unbearable.


The case highlighted the problems police face concerning gun control and rescue operations. But we should also look into whether it was possible to make the man think twice before his outburst of violence.


Japan has been slow in tackling the problem of domestic violence. It was only in 2001 that the domestic violence prevention law was created. Since then, courts have issued more than 2,000 orders each year, restraining access to the victims or evicting the perpetrator from the victim's home.


But these are only emergency relief measures intended to protect the victim. There is no system in place to re-educate or rehabilitate the abuser. Unless law-enforcement authorities act on a case as an assault or other crime, nothing can be done against the person inflicting the damage.


Victims often suddenly disappear after enduring years of abuse from their spouses. But the abusers unduly become resentful or persistently demand the victims return to them. And in the process, the abusers will often cause serious trouble, like the case of the Aichi man.


The United States, Britain and South Korea have systems in place that not only protect the victims but also order abusers to enter rehabilitation programs, where they can discuss their crimes with other offenders and reflect on their actions.


In Britain, the rehabilitation program is mandatory for offenders. If the abuser fails to attend, he or she can be sent to prison.


Japan should adopt such an approach to oblige abusers to attend rehabilitation programs during their probation period or when they are subject to a court protection order.


Many people argue that if public funds are to be used, then support for the victims should be the top priority. So far, the government has avoided making a decision about such rehabilitation programs because questions remain on their effectiveness. There is also the danger that abusers might use the rehabilitation programs as an excuse to approach their victims.


Some local governments and citizens groups have tested their own rehabilitation programs. The central government should also move to create solid measures to deal with the issue.

Noriko Yamaguchi, 58, heads a private group based in Tokyo that offers education programs for perpetrators of domestic violence. She was trained in the United States, and her group has seen more than 100 participants in the rehabilitation programs since it started up in 2002.


Yamaguchi says it is difficult to easily determine whether someone who has spent decades abusing his or her partner has really changed through the education programs. But she says the programs are worth trying.


"Domestic violence is a crime. Currently, the only recourse the victim has is to run and hide. That is wrong," she said.


In fiscal 2007, more than 60,000 calls were made to aid centers in Japan seeking help or guidance about domestic violence. If nothing is done, this problem will become a serious burden on society. Even abusers should not be left to ruin. Serious action is needed.



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« 増税への道筋―社会保障の中身を語れ | トップページ | 08回顧・日本 政治も経済も波乱の年越し »