A former member of the assembly in Japan who claims she was sexually assaulted by the mayor of the city she represented has spoken out, claiming that residents were unduly pressured to vote to expel her last week.
Shoko Arai, who was the only woman in the 12-member assembly at the Kusatsu hot spring spa, accused the mayor, Nobutada Kuroiwa, and other prominent men in the town of trying to remove her from office after she made her accusations public. . in an e-book in late 2019. She claimed that Kuroiwa sexually assaulted her in his office in 2015. He denies the claim.
Arai was expelled from the assembly on Tuesday last week after residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of her removal.
“Since I made my accusation, I have been punished at the council and subjected to a storm of criticism,” Arai told a news conference on Friday. “Kuroiwa wants to use his power to exclude ‘troublesome’ people like me from the council, to get me out of the city and destroy my life?”
The Arai case has highlighted criticism of the way the Japanese authorities deal with allegations of sexual violence. According to a 2017 government survey, only 4% of women who have allegedly been sexually assaulted come forward.
Arai said her ordeal had shown that Japan also needed to address its low rate of female representation in politics, especially at the local level.
“Why do you think the #MeToo movement doesn’t seem to be gaining popularity in Japan?” she said. “It is because we live in a male dominated society that it creates an atmosphere where it is difficult for women to speak. Instead, they are crushed. That is exactly what happened to me, ”he alleged.
The 73-year-old mayor has repeatedly denied sexually assaulting Arai in his office in 2015. Speaking to reporters this week, Kuroiwa called Arai’s accusation “100% a lie and fabrication,” adding that there was not even room for for a discussion about whether it was consensual sex. “There was absolutely nothing at all,” he said.
Kuroiwa said the fact that Arai did not file a police report or initiate a lawsuit shows that his claims are unfounded. Arai said he was considering legal action, but feared he would not receive a fair hearing.
Kuroiwa has filed a criminal complaint against Arai and is seeking defamation damages in a civil lawsuit. He accused her of making false accusations against him to pressure him to change a decision on a policy on hot spring baths.
The sexual assault allegations sparked a backlash among male members of the assembly and a campaign of personal attacks against Arai, who had represented his seat as an independent since 2011.
Her fellow council members removed her from office in December last year, but the measure was revoked by the prefectural authorities. Local politicians, who accused her of making “scandalous” comments and “damaging the dignity” of the council, then gathered enough signatures to carry out a recall vote.
Of the 2,835 residents who voted last week, 2,542 supported his removal.
Kusatsu, a city of 6,200 people northwest of Tokyo, relies heavily on tourism. On Friday, Arai, 51, said tourism officials, hoteliers and inn owners had joined forces with male members of the assembly to force her out.
“Kusatsu is a tourist town and most of the council members are hotel presidents or Ryokan posadas, and many of the residents are their employees, ”he said. “How is it possible that people refuse to sign a revocation petition when their boss or employer asks them to?
“It’s a small town and it would have been easy to find out who refused to sign the petition or who voted for me to remain in my seat. It is not an exaggeration to say that the entire city is under surveillance. “
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