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Ex-soldier Gonoi in conversation with journalists (8 December): Years of struggle

Photo: Chris Gallagher / REUTERS

A Japanese court has found three former army members guilty of sexual assault. The men were sentenced to two years of suspended prison in Fukushima, according to the BBC.

The victim is 24-year-old Rina Gonoi, whose fight had caused an international sensation. The former soldier had stated that she had been the victim of the assault during her time in the army in 2021. The three men would have pushed her to the ground, pushed her legs apart and alternately pressed against her to simulate a sexual act.

She complained to her superiors, but no action was taken. Gonoi told the BBC that a dozen colleagues were present, and instead of intervening, some laughed. She left the army.

Gonoi made the incident public last year. The Japanese Ministry of Defense apologized and said that five men involved in the incident had been fired. Four others were punished. The ministry began a comprehensive investigation into sexual assault in the military. According to the BBC, more than 100 suspected cases of sexual harassment have been found in the ministry's portfolio.

Gonoi was named to Time Magazine's "Time 100 Next" list, which honors "future leaders." The BBC also honoured her as one of the hundred most influential women.

»Good for Japanese society«

The case also became big because it touches on fundamental issues. In Japan, it is still considered taboo to address sexual violence. Gonoi has opened the door for other survivors of such attacks, Time wrote. In addition, the country's government is trying to recruit more women for the service, the proportion of men in the army is 90 percent, according to »Time«. The country also wants to strengthen its military to deter its powerful neighbors China and North Korea.

Gonoi said after the verdict: "I think it was good for Japanese society that the court handed down a guilty verdict and accepted the demands I made from the beginning."