Japan: Journalist wins high-profile #MeToo case | News | DW | 18.12.2019
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Japan: Journalist wins high-profile #MeToo case

Journalist Shiori Ito has won her rape allegation case against a prominent TV host in Japan. Ito became the face of the #MeToo movement in the conservative country when she spoke out about her experience.

A Japanese court on Wednesday awarded 3.3 million yen ($30,000; €27,000) in damages to journalist Shiori Ito, the result of a high-profile civil lawsuit following Ito's allegation that she was raped by prominent Japanese reporter Noriyuki Yamaguchi. 

Yamaguchi must pay the damages to the 30-year-old journalist, the Tokyo court ruled. Ito had originally sought 11 million yen to compensate for the psychological damage she endured after prosecutors refrained from indicting Yamaguchi after Ito filed a report of rape with the police. 

The accused reporter has repeatedly denied the allegations. He had filed a counter-suit against Ito seeking 130 million yen in damages, which the court shot down on Wednesday.

Read more: #MeToo and more — five hashtags for equality

"We won. The counter-suit was turned down," Ito said outside the courtroom following the verdict. She held a banner that read "victory."

Yamaguchi may appeal the verdict.

A culture-changing case

The case rocked Japan in 2017 when Ito went public with the rape allegations. Ito effectively became a symbol of the #MeToo movement in the country, where the campaign against sexual harassment and assault has been slow to take hold. 

2017 Japanese government data shows that among female victims of rape, only 4% come forward to report the crime. 

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Ito met Yamaguchi, a senior television reporter with close ties to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for drinks in 2015 when she was an intern at Reuters after the reporter offered to help her find a job.

Ito alleges Yamaguchi raped her that evening while she was unconscious and that it is possible her drink contained a date rape drug.  

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"When I regained consciousness, in intense pain, I was in a hotel room and he was on top of me. I knew what had happened but I couldn't process it," she said. 

After reporting the crime, the police were slow to open a criminal investigation and eventually backed away from arresting Yamaguchi without providing a reason. 

Outdated laws get an update

Ito broke her silence in a book about the incident titled "Black Box", published in 2017.

That same year, Japan revised its 100-year-old rape laws to increase the minimum jail term for rapists from three years to five years and also extended the definition of sexual assault law to allow for the possibility of men as victims for the first time. 

The laws still contain controversial elements including requiring the prosecution prove that the victim was intimidated or incapable of resistance. 

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kp/se (AP, Reuters) 

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