Japan's Defense Ministry plans special investigation into harassment in SDF

Japan's Defense Ministry says it will conduct a special investigation into harassment within the ministry and the Self-Defense Forces following sexual assault allegations.

The move comes after former female SDF member Gonoi Rina complained of sexual harassment by other personnel while on duty. She worked for a Ground Self-Defense Force unit until June.

Gonoi also says that she had received information through the internet that 146 people, including current SDF members, had experienced some form of harassment.

She asked the Defense Ministry in August to look into the matter.

The ministry says it has been receiving a series of complaints about harassment, which it recognizes as a serious problem.

It says its Inspector General's Office of legal compliance, which conducts investigations independently, will probe Gonoi's allegations. The team will be headed by a former superintendent public prosecutor.

The Inspector General's Office will also conduct a special defense inspection to examine harassment in all ministry organizations and the SDF.

Special defense inspections are unusual.

They are launched when the defense minister determines that an objective examination of facts is necessary, such as in cases of possible misconduct involving senior ministry officials or SDF officers.

The upcoming inspection will be the sixth. The last one was carried out in 2017 over the alleged cover-up of official logs of SDF peacekeeping operations in South Sudan.

The ministry says it plans to punish those who are found to have been involved in harassment. It also says it will set up a panel of experts to review measures against harassment.