Sexual Crimes against Children: System to Prevent Harm Must be Created Swiftly

There has been a spate of incidents in which children have been sexually victimized at schools and cram schools. Such despicable crimes, in which teachers take advantage of their position, are absolutely unacceptable. There is an urgent need to create a system to prevent such harm.

Ayuko Kato, state minister for measures regarding the declining birth rate, has announced that a bill to create the Japanese version of the DBS (disclosure and barring service) will not be submitted to an upcoming extraordinary Diet session. This new system would allow employers to make inquiries to ensure that people who work at jobs involving contact with children have not committed sex crimes in the past.

Many people within the ruling parties believe that the framework of the new system envisioned by the government is inadequate, so it appears to be taking time for them to coordinate issues regarding the bill. The government said it aims to submit the bill to next year’s ordinary Diet session or later.

It can be difficult for people on the outside, including parents and guardians, to know what goes on at schools and cram schools. In the case of children, who have limited sexual knowledge, it may be difficult to understand what has happened when they are subjected to indecent acts.

According to the central government’s statistics, the recidivism rate for sex crimes is 14%. It is important to protect children by keeping people who have committed such crimes in the past away from them.

The Children and Families Agency envisions that under the new system, all schools and nursery schools would be required to inquire about the sexual offense records of their employees, while other entities, such as cram schools and sports clubs, would be able to use the system on a voluntary basis. This is because the government deemed it legally difficult to require private cram schools and other entities to make such inquiries.

However, some members of the ruling parties have protested against operating the system in such a manner, saying that inquiries should be mandatory for all occupations that involve contact with children. The revelation that two teachers at Yotsuya Otsuka Inc., a major cram school operator, were arrested for allegedly filming students for indecent purposes has heightened calls for tougher measures to be taken against cram schools.

It is essential to thoroughly discuss this important point of debate. However, the introduction of the new system must not be delayed substantially as a result. The issues should be sorted out promptly and the bill enacted as soon as possible.

Some cram schools are installing security cameras in classrooms and prohibiting teachers from bringing smartphones into classrooms to prevent sexual abuse of children. It is essential for them to move forward with their own efforts without waiting for the establishment of the new system.

A shocking incident has also come to light at a school. The principal of a public junior high school in Tokyo was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting female students, among other crimes. He is believed to have taken advantage of his position as a teacher at another junior high school where he worked in the past to summon female students.

The incident came to light as a result of reports to a consultation service of the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. Last school year, more than 230 cases of sexual violence were reported to the service. It is hoped that other boards of education will quickly establish such a consultation service.

The trauma of being sexually victimized by a trusted adult never goes away.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2023)