More moves to crack down on sex crimes

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More moves to crack down on sex crimes

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The government vowed to get tougher on sex criminals and also to spend more on medical expenses for their victims following a string of shocking sex crimes.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family unveiled a new set of policies yesterday mainly aimed at toughening penalties for sex offenders, especially those targeting children or teens.

The ministry will ask the National Assembly to revise the law on child protection against sexual crimes to double the sentences for rapists of minors. Currently, the minimum sentence is five years in prison. The new law will make the minimum 10 years.

The ministry also said it will seek a change in the law to disallow reductions in prison terms for rapists of minors because they were drunk at the time of the crime.

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“As both the ruling and opposition parties have seemingly reached a consensus on the issue, we expect the revision to be passed by the Assembly,” said Seo Young-hak, director of the women’s rights support division at the ministry. The ministry is also proposing a revision in the law to discard a clause that allows minors who have been raped to waive punishment for their attackers. Should the revision be passed, sexual assailants against minors will face jail terms no matter what victims want. Besides plans to toughen penalties, the ministry also announced a set of plans to better support victims of sex crimes and their families.

The ministry pledged to pay medical bills for rape victims regardless of the cost. Until now, if medical expenses exceeded 5 million won ($4,430), local governments would conduct a review to determine whether to continue full support. Also, the ministry will extend its assistance to family members of all rape victims, including siblings. Previously, it gave assistance only to parents of victims under the age of 19.

Political parties are also suggesting changes in laws to counteract the wave of recent violent crimes. Both the ruling Saenuri and opposition Democratic United parties advocate terminating the “offense subject to complaint” clause, which requires victims of sex crimes aged 19 and above to file a legal complaint in order for prosecutors to indict suspects.

The clause was first introduced to protect the privacy of sexual crime victims. But it has exposed them to threats from perpetrators. And some victims didn’t want to go public with their ordeals by reporting the crimes committed against them.

“We have called for the elimination of the clause since 2006 and expect the Assembly this time will pass the motion as the two major parties both recognize the loophole in the current law,” said Seo of the women’s rights division.

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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