Gender-Based Violence Following the Great East Japan Disasters

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Keiko IKEDA , Women's Network for East Japan Disaster, Japan
Tomoko YUNOMAE , Women's Network for East Japan Disaster, Japan
Reiko MASAI , Women’s Net Kobe, Japan
Research on gender-based violence following disasters remains limited in Japan.  A team of researchers and advocates, who are members of the Women's Network for East Japan Disaster, conducted a case-finding study and compiled 82 unduplicated incidents of gender-based violence perpetrated in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Disasters.  This presentation discusses the study’s results and analyzes various manifestations of gender-based violence following the disaster.

While the majority of the reported cases (n=45) pertained to intimate partner violence/domestic violence, the remaining 37 cases involved violence and harassment by individuals other than intimate partners.  These incidents were diverse in their manifestations and situational contexts and included sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact, voyeurism, sexual harassment, ad stalking.  The majority of the perpetrators were individuals whom the victims knew, as opposed to total strangers.  Some of the reported cases involved sexual assault and exploitation committed by individuals who were in the position to provide assistance and protection, such as leaders of evacuation centers.  Exploitation of a sense of fear and helplessness was a tactic frequently employed by perpetrators.  For example, ex-partners perpetrated violence after approaching women and offering help, and disaster response personnel/volunteers exploited disaster-affected individuals.  Women of all ages and in all situations are at risk of this type of exploitative violence; however, women who are single, divorced, separated, or widowed and  those who have lost a place to live, job or other sources of livelihood appear particularly vulnerable to this type of violence. 

This study elucidated multiple layers of vulnerabilities of women in the wake of the disaster, which stem from the pre-existing social structures that disadvantage and discriminate women, and sociocultural norms that reinforce male domination and female subordination.