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[Editorial] Punishment for sex crimes

The government has toughened punishment for sex crimes against people with disabilities. The measures, announced Friday, came following public outcry over the mild punishments given to teachers at a special school for the hearing-impaired in Gwangju, who raped and sexually assaulted their students.

The sex crimes at Inhwa School, which were committed for five years starting in 2000, were recently brought back into the spotlight by a local box-office hit titled “Dogani,” which means “crucible” or “cauldron” in English. The film turned the nation into a cauldron of seething public outrage.

The measures, among other things, remove sex crimes against the disabled from the category of “chingojoe,” or an offense subject to complaint. Currently, sex criminals cannot be prosecuted without a complaint by the victim. But the government will make it possible for the prosecution to indict those suspected of sexually abusing the disabled even without a complaint from the victim.

We welcome this change as it will prevent suspects of sex crimes against the disabled from getting away with their offenses by pressing the victims to drop their complaints, either through monetary compensation or by threats to retaliate.

The government has also decided to abolish the burden of proof placed on rape victims to establish a case of rape. Currently, a rape victim cannot build a case unless able to prove that he or she was in a state of being unable to resist. This requirement is especially disadvantageous to disabled rape victims, since they have difficulty expressing themselves. Therefore the government’s decision to remove this requirement is a step in the right direction, given that it only benefits rape suspects.

Other measures included the raising of the minimum jail term for rapists of the disabled from the current three years to five years and forcing those convicted to wear an electronic anklet.

One element that should have been included in the package was the abolition of the statutes of limitations for sex crimes. For most crimes, it is necessary to limit the time for prosecution to a certain period after they occurred. But for sex crimes against children or disabled people, this should not apply.

Japan abolished the statutes of limitations for sex crimes in 2000. In Great Britain and many states of the U.S., no statutes of limitations are in place for sex crimes. To protect children and disabled people from sexual abuse, we also should stop applying statutes of limitations to sexual offenses against them.
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