Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes all forms of rape involving force against women, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The law defines a rapist as “a person who, through assault or intimidation, forcibly commits sexual intercourse with a female of not less than 13 years of age or commits sexual intercourse with a female under 13 years of age.” Prosecutors interpreted forcible to mean evidence of force and/or physical resistance by the victim is necessary for a sexual encounter to be considered rape. According to NPA statistics, in 2013 there were 1,409 reported cases of rape against women and girls, and authorities prosecuted 531 individual suspects. There were 1,723 convictions for rape and other indecent acts; 918 of those convicted (53.3 percent) were given suspended sentences.
Although prohibited by law, domestic violence against women remained a serious problem. According to NPA statistics, in 2013 there were 49,533 reported cases of domestic violence, with women constituting more than 93.4 percent of the victims. On January 3, revised legislation allowed victims of abuse by domestic partners, spouses, and former spouses to receive protection at shelters and seek restraining orders from court.
In October 2013 a revised stalker-control law came into effect, which prohibits e-mail harassment. The same month the country prosecuted its first stalker case, sentencing a man to 22 years in prison for stalking and killing his former girlfriend. Police identified 21,089 stalking cases and made 1,889 arrests in 2013.
The government reiterated its apologies to World War II “comfort women” (women trafficked for sexual purposes during the war). South Korean survivors and their supporters continued to call for a formal apology and compensation from the government.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not ban FGM/C specifically. There were no reports the practice occurred.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not criminalize sexual harassment but includes measures to identify companies that fail to prevent it, and prefectural labor offices and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare provided these companies with advice, guidance, and recommendations. Companies that fail to comply with government guidance may be publicly identified, but according to officials, this has never been necessary. Sexual harassment in the workplace remained widespread, however, and from April 2013 to March 2014, government hotlines in prefectural labor bureau equal employment departments reported receiving 9,230 consultations, 61.8 percent of which were from female workers. In June the Japanese Trade Union Confederation released survey results indicating that approximately 49 percent of female employees had suffered sexual or power harassment in the workplace, although 31 percent of those women did not file a complaint or seek consultation. Government hotlines in prefectural labor bureau equal employment departments handled consultations concerning sexual harassment and mediated disputes when possible.
In a June incident that sparked national debate, a female Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member speaking on maternal and pediatric health-care issues was heckled by a male assembly member with taunts such as, “Why don’t you get married?” The assemblyman later apologized and resigned from his political party but kept his seat in the assembly.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of reproductive health free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Women had access to contraception and maternal health services, including skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, and essential obstetric and postpartum care.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender discrimination and generally provides women the same rights as men. The Gender Equality Bureau in the Cabinet Office continued to examine policies and monitor developments.
Inequality in employment remained a society-wide problem (see also section 7.d.). Women constituted 42.8 percent of the labor force in 2013, and their average monthly wage was 231,700 yen ($2,190) seven-tenths of the monthly wage earned by men (334,100 yen ($3,150). Women held 11.2 percent of managerial positions in 2013. Employers often forced pregnant women to leave their position.
From January to March, the government received 2,085 complaints of harassment and discrimination related to pregnancy and childbirth from female workers, up 18 percent from six years ago. The Supreme Court heard its first maternity harassment case on October 23 and ruled in favor of a physical therapist who claimed workplace maternity harassment. Her attorneys and representatives of an NGO dedicated to fighting such harassment described the ruling as landmark decision. They alleged that Japanese employers often pressured pregnant workers to quit despite the country’s Equal Employment Opportunity Law, routinely denied such practices, and faced few repercussions when complaints were investigated by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. Some Japanese businesses stated the ruling would discourage hiring women of childbearing age.
Prime Minister Abe made women’s empowerment a central theme of his growth strategy, an emphasis that analysts dubbed “womenomics.” Increasing child-care facilities and maternity leave, along with encouraging private companies to report gender statistics in annual financial reports, were key components of his efforts to increase women’s participation in the economy and government. The share of women in managerial positions of companies with more than 100 employees increased from 6.9 percent in June 2012 to 7.5 percent in June 2013, and the employment rate of women ages 25-44 increased from 68 percent in 2012 to 69.5 percent in 2013.
Despite Prime Minister Abe’s introduction of policies to encourage women’s participation in the workplace, NGOs continued to allege that implementation of antidiscrimination measures was insufficient, pointing to discriminatory provisions in the law, unequal treatment of women in the labor market, and low representation of women in high-level elected bodies. NGOs urged the government to abolish a six-month waiting period stipulated in the law for women but not men before remarriage, eliminate different age minimums for marriage depending on sex, and allow married couples a choice of surnames.