Sexual Violence and the Law in Japan

By Catherine Burns | Go to book overview

8

Conclusion

If we could further our understanding of what judges know, how they know it, how this shapes the construction of reality in judgments - that is, how judges 'orient' their narrative - and how this is all affected by gender, then maybe things could change.

(Graycar 1995:269)

This book has aimed to take up Graycar's challenge, above. Analysing cases of sexual assault has revealed the extensive circulation of rape myths in the Japanese courtroom, which silence alternative narratives of sexual violence. Japan is anything but unique in this respect; much the same, certainly familiar rape myths continue to permeate the legal environments in Australia, Canada, Britain, the US and elsewhere. The significant difference, perhaps, is the popular perception in Australia, if not elsewhere, that legal and social approaches to rape have dramatically changed. It seems comments such as those made by Victorian Judge Bland are quickly forgotten:

often, despite criticism that has been directed towards judges lately about men acting violently to women during sexual intercourse, it does happen, in the common experience of those who have been in the law as long as I have anyway, that no subsequently means yes.

(The Age 6 May 1993:11;
for other examples see Scutt 1992, 1994b)

The findings of numerous and extensive studies, most notably in Australia the study Heroines of Fortitude (NSW Department for Women 1996), clearly demonstrate the continuing circulation and influence of rape myths in criminal proceedings of sexual assault cases - despite various law reforms.

Judicial opinions reflect, and therefore make visible, dominant discourses and, at the same time, they play an important symbolic role in legitimising (or not) particular social conventions and behaviours. Judgments, therefore, have a significant role beyond the case itself, as authoritative in terms

-159-

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