For most of 2020, I had been downcast due mainly to a series of non-Covid-related medical problems I experienced but also because of lingering socio-political situations that don’t seem to improve much, making me lethargic. However, a newspaper article I read several days ago made me feel a bit positive about our justice system, which, in my opinion, has tended to make adjudications, reflecting our male- and business-dominated society.
The headline said “the high court in Tokyo overturned the not-guilty verdict of the Shizuoka district court rendered to the man for raping his daughter” (Morning edition, Tokyo Shimbun, Dec. 22, 2020). I remembered reading an article on this case in early 2019 and having been so upset at the decision I considered horrendous. I could not understand why the presiding judge, a man, was so lenient to the accused. Around that time, there was another well-publicized rape case in Japan in which the man being accused got off the hook, apparently because of his close connection to a politically influential figure. These events led to so-called the “flower demos” or demonstrations, in which many young women participated to express their anger over such injustice.
Apparently, the daughter in this particular case had a slight developmental disability and the father started raping her in 2017 when she was 12 years old. Since there had been no witness or material evidence in the case, the dispute in the trial was on the credibility and reliability of the victim’s testimony, in which she claimed to have been raped by the father about three times weekly for nearly two years (Shimbun Akahata, digital edition, Dec. 22, 2020). The reason why the judge let the accused go free was because he could not find the daughter’s testimony credible, especially regarding the frequency of sexual abuse committed by the father.
However, the judge at the high court in Tokyo, a woman, found the victim’s testimony believable. Though she found the daughter’s statement sometimes faltering, she nevertheless thought only a victim in a rape case could have provided the kind of descriptions as concretely and realistically as given by the daughter. She also felt that in view of the victim’s disability, she might not have understood correctly the kind of questions put forward to her during the cross-examination in the initial trial regarding the frequency of the father’s sexual act. She was convinced that, if that had been the case, the victim’s inconsistency could have been well-explained.
The judge at the high court felt strongly that the lower court having dismissed the daughter as unreliable and incredible only based on that part of her testimony was not reasonable and justified. She expressed much feeling for the young victim and pronounced a 7-year sentence upon the father for the crime she considered as “most heinous” and for having made the daughter suffer physically and mentally.
It was a sigh of relief to know that justice has been served in this case. However, I still feel discouraged and disgusted when I realize that the social development in my country is still at this level after more than seven decades since the end of WWII, during which period we have supposedly made much progress in the civility in our society.