Last December, Shiori Ito’s victory in a Tokyo civil suit against a prominent journalist she accused of rape was hailed as a landmark for women in Japan and the catalyst for its own #MeToo movement. The ruling was significant both for the powerful standing of the defendant, Noriyuki Yamaguchi, the biographer of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the rarity of a woman speaking out against sexual assault.
Ito, a freelance journalist and filmmaker whose focus is on gender equality and human rights, has since become a feminist icon and was included in Time’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2020. “She has pushed other women to promote the #MeToo movement in Japan and sparked the national flower demonstration, a protest movement against sexual violence, where women simply gather together standing with flowers, telling their stories of victimisation,” wrote Chizuko Ueno, chief director of the Women’s Action Network, in the magazine.
The case was closely watched as well for its symbolism in a changing society. It is estimated that approximately 60 per cent of women who are victims of sexual assault in Japan choose not to report those crimes for fear of stigmatization. Ito is now pushing for Japan’s rape laws to be revised to include non-consensual sexual intercourse.
“Even little by little, a big change is happening,” she said at the conclusion of her suit. “The scene I am witnessing is completely different from the one I used to see before.”
See also: 9 Hong Kong Charities That Support Women