Japan says UN envoy has retracted remarks that 13% of schoolgirls are involved in paid dating

United Nations Special Rapporteur Maud de Boer-Buquicchio speaks during a press briefing in Tokyo on Oct 26, 2015.
United Nations Special Rapporteur Maud de Boer-Buquicchio speaks during a press briefing in Tokyo on Oct 26, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - A United Nations human rights envoy has retracted her claim that 13 per cent of schoolgirls in Japan are involved in forms of paid dating that can involve sex, the Japanese government said on Wednesday (Nov 11).

The step came shortly after Tokyo bitterly complained to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and demanded it show evidence to support the figure that was announced in Tokyo last month.

Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the UN's special envoy on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, wrote to the Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organizations in Geneva to say she could not offer hard evidence to support her claim, according to a Japanese official.

"The letter said after further reviews that there was no official and recent data to support the 13 per cent figure," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

In her letter, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio vowed not to use the figure in the future and said the number will not be part of a report to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, Mr Suga said.

"We regard this explanation as effectively a retraction of the comment over the 13 per cent figure," he added.

"The Japanese government will continue to ask them to draft reports based on objective data."

Ms Nekane Lavin, from the UN Office of the High Commissioner in Geneva, later issued a statement by e-mail saying the special envoy will make no further comment until March when she submits her report.

"Please note... the Special Rapporteur will not make further comments on this issue until the presentation of her full and comprehensive report on her visit to Japan to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016."

In a press conference last month, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio spoke of the Japanese social phenomenon of "enjo kosai", often translated as "compensated dating", in which older men pay teenage girls for dates that may involve sex.

"Some 13 per cent of the school girls in Japan are involved in that kind of activity, which perhaps starts with a relatively innocent activity," she said at the briefing.

The "innocent" behaviour may include men going for a walk with high school girls, she added.

When Japan subsequently demanded that she present evidence for the claim, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio said this month she had "no official statistics" on compensated dating.

She said she had seen the figure "in open sources".

Concerns over the sexualisation of young girls have been frequently expressed by Japanese media, women's groups and some politicians, but the precise extent of abuses or illicit activities has proven difficult to measure.