Of the 240,000 uniformed personnel serving in Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, 11,000 are women. It’s a difficult life, and rampant sexual harassment does not make it any easier, says Shukan Taishu (Jan 19).
A Defense Ministry survey released in August 2007 put the issue in a nutshell. Altogether, 3,704 servicewomen reported having experienced some form of sexual harassment -- whether “forced sex” (3.4%), unwanted caresses (20%), or off-color joking (24%). That represents an overall improvement over the past 10 years, the magazine finds, though hardcore harassment seems to have risen.
Actress Hiromi Akitsuki, having spent some time serving in the Maritime Self Defense Force, shares her experiences with Shukan Taishu.
She describes the intense discipline of the four-month training period she went through, and the stress it placed on instant, unquestioning obedience to orders. One day, she says, she was on duty when a superior officer came by and asked, “Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Well then,” said the officer, “you probably haven’t done it in a while. How about doing it with me?”
“He was half-joking,” she says, and nothing further seems to have happened. “Probably every servicewoman has experienced at least that degree of sexual harassment.”
“Natsumi,” 23, served in the Ground Self Defense Force until last year. “It’s very hard in any case for servicewomen to win promotion,” she says, “when they’re so overwhelmingly outnumbered by men. Often it’s simply impossible to go public over sexual harassment.”
She recounts a personal experience. Once or twice a week, her squad held a “more or less compulsory” drinking party. “For the men, it’s more enjoyable if there are women present, so we’re pressed pretty hard to attend.” Rule number one, no doubt learned the hard way: “I absolutely never go wearing a skirt.”
This particular occasion was a yearend party that included Natsumi and one other woman among 13-14 men. “Suddenly, the officer sitting next to me calls out, ‘Kiss relay!’ That means you kiss the person sitting next to you. “It was bad enough having to see the men kiss each other,” Natsumi says, “but then the officer next to me began pawing and kissing me… It made me sick.”
That seems to have been the end as far as she was concerned, but she goes on to tell of a second party, after which the other woman present “woke up to find herself in a hotel. Drunk to the point of non-resistance, “she was practically raped by an officer.”
Afterwards, the officer resumed military bearing. “You are to mention this to nobody!” It was an order. “Yes sir!” the woman responded.
Several examples in a similar vein follow, after which Shukan Taishu sums up, “These male officer bullies of attractive servicewomen are supposedly our defense against North Korean missiles and the terrorist threat. Maybe that’s something we should worry about.”© Japan Today