Osaka ordinance on sex offenders a model for protection of kids

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Osaka ordinance on sex offenders a model for protection of kidsECPAT/STOP Japan

Sexual violence leaves children with emotional trauma. Society as a whole should examine how to prevent them from becoming the victims of this heinous crime.

About 4,000 to 5,000 cases of sexual violence against children are recorded by police every year. There must be many more that go undetected.

Many sex offenders tend to repeatedly commit similar acts of abuse. According to the National Police Agency, 105 of 740 sex offenders against children who were released from prison from 2005 to 2010 were found to have later committed similar acts. Moreover, 57 of them reportedly did so in their first year out of prison.

How can sex offenders against children be deterred from committing similar acts? This should be the main pillar of measures to protect youngsters from sexual violence.

In this regard, an ordinance the Osaka prefectural government put into effect just this month is worthy of attention.

If people who sexually assaulted victims younger than 18 live within the prefecture after being released from prison, the ordinance obligates them to report their personal information–such as address and kind of crime–to the prefectural government over the five years after they completed their terms. Such residents are subject to a civil fine if they fail to do so.

It is reportedly the first ordinance of its kind in the nation.

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Social rehabilitation

It should be noted that the ordinance features measures to help sex offenders against children reintegrate into society as a way to encourage them to report their information to the prefectural government. It calls for offering them job-search assistance in collaboration with Hello Work job placement offices.

Clinical psychotherapists also will offer residents subject to the ordinance counseling that is expected to be effective in helping them control their sexual impulses.

Such counseling is already offered to prison inmates, but they cannot continue receiving it once they are released into society. Therefore, the measure aims to allow them to continue receiving the treatment even after serving out their terms.

It can be expected that the ordinance could deter those released from prison from sexually assaulting children again because they know that the Osaka prefectural government knows their whereabouts.

However, the prefectural government has no way to find where past offenders live after being released from prison if they do not report their criminal record to the prefectural government. Moreover, they do not have to report their information once they move to areas outside Osaka Prefecture. This illustrates the limits of what the ordinance alone can do.

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National measures needed

Therefore, it is important for the central government to take the initiative in beefing up measures to prevent sexual violence against children.

After a girl was kidnapped and murdered in Nara in 2004, the NPA began receiving information from the Justice Ministry regarding individuals released from prison after serving terms for sexual offenses against children. Based on that information, officers from prefectural police headquarters nationwide can confirm the whereabouts of those people, mainly by visiting their houses.

The NPA receives information on those who have sexually assaulted children younger than 13. However, consideration should be given to the idea of expanding the ages of children covered by this measure to those younger than 18, just as Osaka Prefecture’s ordinance does.

It is important for the central government to use effective steps taken by local governments as models for action.

Some states in the United States require sexual offenders to register with local authorities and reveal their status to local residents. In South Korea, meanwhile, those released from prison are required to carry Global Positioning System tracking devices to make their whereabouts known.

Overseas efforts like these should be reference points for coming up with measures for our nation.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 11, 2012
See original article at:http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/editorial/T121011003095.htm

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