Japan PM Abe pledges 'full-scale' efforts to eradicate child abuse in wake of girl's death

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pledge came in response to a series of child abuse cases which sparked national backlash.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pledge came in response to a series of child abuse cases which sparked national backlash. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged on Wednesday (Feb 6) that the government will make all-out efforts to eradicate child abuse in Japan, the Jiji Press reported.

The pledge came in response to a series of child abuse cases which sparked national backlash, and more recently last month, after a 10-year-old elementary school pupil in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, died allegedly after constant abuse by her father.

The death of Mia Kurihara, which has garnered widespread domestic media attention, is "really heart-wrenching and should never have happened", Mr Abe said at a House of Councillors committee meeting on Wednesday.

"We're determined to do all we can (to prevent child abuse cases), including providing full-scale support for efforts by local authorities," Mr Abe stressed. "We must work while putting children's lives first."

He also noted that the government had sent officials from the education and welfare ministries to respond to the case, Jiji Press said.

Mia's parents have been arrested. Her 41-year-old father, Mr Yuichiro Kurihara, was nabbed last week for inflicting bodily harm on his daughter while his wife, Mrs Nagisa Kurihara, 31, was arrested on Monday for abetting the violence.

Mrs Kurihara, a victim of domestic violence herself, has reportedly told investigators her husband physically abused Mia during the school's winter vacation, resulting in bruises on visible parts of her body, public broadcaster NHK said. She added that her husband ordered her not to let Mia out of their home to avoid raising suspicion.

Yet Mr Kurihara has denied ever abusing his daughter.

 
 
 

Mia had told her school teachers that she was being subjected to constant abuse and violence from her father, but little did she expect that this complaint would be relayed back to her father.

Writing in a questionnaire, Mia said, "I'm being assaulted by my father. He wakes me up in the middle of the night and, even in the day when I'm awake, he kicks and beats me... Teacher, can't you do anything?"

When the authorities were alerted, a child welfare consultation centre took Mia into protective custody. Her father then demanded to see the questionnaire, which, ironically, had promised confidentiality in its instructions.

 

This was refused at first on the grounds that Mia's consent was required. But Mr Kurihara returned three days later with a document ostensibly bearing the girl's consent. She was later transferred to another primary school in Noda.

During this period, not once did Mia complain of abuse, nor did welfare centre officials pay a single visit to the family home.

Months later, Mia was found dead in her bathroom on Jan 24 after missing school for two weeks.

Her death shone a harsh spotlight on Japan's child protection system that has often been exploited by abusive parents at the expense of their children.

This is the second high-profile fatal incident in under a year, following the tragic case of five-year-old Yua Funato, who died in March last year begging for her stepfather's approval and writing journal entries such as "please, please, please forgive me".