Too easy on sex crimes

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Too easy on sex crimes

After a series of sex crimes sounded loud and sharp alarm bells across the country - including a horrendous one earlier this month in which a 7-year-old girl was kidnapped while she was asleep at home and then raped by a neighbor in his 20s - the government and politicians have hurriedly come up with measures to somehow put the brakes on a ceaseless crime wave.

Both the ruling and opposition parties, in a rare move, have raised a common voice on the idea of excluding sex crimes from the type of offense that requires a complaint from a victim to be prosecuted, and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced an amendment to the law on protection of children and juveniles from sexual abuse. But voices demanding prudence on the issue have also surfaced, which may lead our alarm and desire to fix the situation to fizzle out soon. The main problem is our society’s deep-rooted leniency toward sex crimes.

In contrast with other criminal cases, punishment for sex crimes depends on whether the victim is an adult (over the age of 19) or a minor. Sex offenses against underage persons are punished regardless of agreements between perpetrators and victims, while sex crimes against adults are punishable only if victims report their cases to law enforcement authorities.

A voice in favor of the exclusion of the complaint requirement has persisted for a while but was subdued by another voice calling for discretion on the issue. The Ministry of Justice explained that the guideline was established to provide both assailants and victims with an opportunity to strike a deal beforehand in an effort to protect their privacy and integrity. This reveals a stereotypical mindset bent on regarding sex crimes as matters of individual chastity and reputation rather than violent crimes under the jurisdiction of law enforcement.

Sex crimes are prone to recur if we insist on treating them so delicately and with such lenience. Perpetrators do not differentiate between adults and minors as long as they can satisfy their sexual cravings. Therefore, leaving habitual offenders alone just because of their victims’ concern about their reputation gravely hurts the public good.

There are many cases of sex crimes against adults in which victims cannot report to the police due to their relationships with their attackers. Offenders sometimes turn into victims thanks to their plausible arguments that they were seduced by victims. The government should apply stricter guidelines to sex crimes against adults. It is high time to firmly establish a new social principle: no tolerance of sexual perpetrators no matter what.

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