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Domestic violence mulled at Naha symposium

Date Posted: 2002-11-30

Okinawa Prefecture Justice Department and the Prefectural Police sponsored a symposium on domestic violence over the weekend in Naha City. In the symposium Keiko Kondo, the owner of a private shelter for victims of domestic violence in Sapporo said that the government should provide shelters for women who are victims of domestic violence. “They are as necessary as public halls or post offices, and there should be one available in every neighborhood,” Kondo argued. “The government should give much more support for these women. For example, they should get priority for public housing, or be able to get loans without a guarantor,” she said.

Women’s Center Council Lawyer Terumi Iha claimed that the laws against domestic violence still need improving. “Although police and courts have changed their attitudes over past couple of years, domestic violence laws still cover only married couples, not girlfriends. They should also be expanded to include sexual harassment, mental violence and economic pressure,” Iha told the audience.

Kondo said that domestic violence is clearly increasing. She said that when she opened her private shelter in 1997 she encountered 450 cases of domestic violence during her first year. “Than has mushroomed to 1,020 cases in 2001, four fold within only four years,” she said.

Kondo said that although there are cultural traditions that regard women lower than men, and many men certainly seem to think that way, things must change. “Those attitudes belong to the past, and men and women should be equal,” Kondo said, adding that as an example of how hard old customs die one need only look at official paperwork in Japan. “Family register, pension money, health cards, all are in the man’s name. Both names should be used in those documents,” Kondo insisted.

Okinawan participants insisted that Okinawa has two faces. “Okinawa has one face that is highly mixed with other cultures, especially American but, on the other hand, Okinawans are very traditional people too,” a female speaking from the audience said. “This is especially true in the countryside, where a man is the king and a woman the servant. That’s a situation that breeds domestic violence,” she said.

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