Protecting the disabledThe government announced new steps to try to better protect the disabled from sexual offenders after the film “Dogani,” which was based on a true story, stirred outrage across the country. Sexual violence against people with physical disabilities has been on a surge, with 409 reported cases during the first nine months of this year, up as much as 94 percent from the same period last year. The government, which was blindsided by such a trend, suddenly trotted out the actions after the film adaptation of a novel by Gong Ji-young exposed serial physical and sexual abuse of hearing-impaired students at Inwha School in Gwangju caused an uproar.
If sexual offenses had earlier been dropped from the category of so-called chingojoe - offenses that can’t be prosecuted without a complaint from a victim - as long lobbied for by women’s rights groups, rapes of the vulnerable and weak could have been lessened. Victims with certain disabilities that diminish the capacity to reason or make decisions can easily be cajoled or intimidated into dropping complaints against offenders. Teachers accused of sexual crimes at the Inwha School walked free after trials. Two were not arrested because the statute of limitations had expired.
Once excluded from the chingojoe category, sexual assaults can be reported by a third person as well.
The new measures also said that any form of violence using status or power is a crime against the disabled. Sexual violence against victims with disabilities will be considered a crime regardless of the victim’s capacity to resist. Sexual offenders who take advantage of the disabled with special needs cannot be tolerated in any way. Teachers committing sexual offenses should be immediately sacked, stripped of their professional licenses and prosecuted. Teachers suspected of sex crimes should be withdrawn from the classrooms.
The new actions, however, failed to remove statutes of limitations on sex crimes against the disabled. Statutes of limitations are necessary in order to uphold efficiency in investigations. But offenders guilty of horrendous crimes against the weak should not be spared just because their actions were discovered years later.
Japan exempted sexual crimes from statutes of limitations in 2000 and many states in the U.S. as well as Britain persecute sex crimes without any time restriction. We should consider perpetual prosecution for sex crimes against minors and the disabled. Stringent laws will protect our children and disabled from sexual assaults.