Japan: establishing a safe sports center

(Tokyo) – The Japan Sports Agency and the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games should establish an independent national body to tackle athlete abuse in Japan, six Japanese non-governmental organizations said today and international.

On October 12, 2021, Athlete Save Japan, Human Rights Watch, Japan Judo Accident Victims Association, Japan Safe Sport Project, Kantokuga Okottewa Ikenai Taikai, and Unisocc wrote to Japan Sports Agency commissioner Koji Murofushi and committee chair. Tokyo organization Seiko Hashimoto and urged them to commit to creating a safe sports center.

Such a center would create a way for athletes to report abuse and for authorities to track how the report is handled. It would establish meaningful remedies for athletes and parents and deter child abuse by identifying and revoking the certification of abusive coaches. It would also provide activities to promote the concept of safe sport and access to professional legal assistance for athletes.

“Japanese athletes have long faced the harsh reality that in order to compete they have to endure abuse and mistreatment,” said Shoichi Sugiyama, athlete rights lawyer and founder of the Japan Safe Sport Project. “Japan can and must lead the global reform movement to protect children and athletes in sport. “

A Human Rights Watch report released on July 20, 2020, “‘I’ve Been Hit So Many Times I Can’t Count’: Abuse Against Child Athletes in Japan,” documented that child athletes in Japan suffer physical, sexual and verbal abuse when training for sports. Japanese sport has a history of corporal punishment against children, known as taibatsu.

In the years of preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, many Japanese athletes, parents and human rights groups have documented abuses such as more than 100 deaths of athletes in judo training since 1983.

The organizations also created the #AthletesAgainstAbuse campaign in Japanese and English calling for the creation of a Japan Safe Sport Center.

“During the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, all eyes were on Tokyo,” said Kanae Doi, director of Human Rights Watch in Japan. “Now, after the Games close, attention is shifted to their legacy and the long-term human rights benefits the Games can bring to children and families in Japan. “

Institutional gaps blunt response and prevention of abuse in Japanese sport. Currently in Japan, sports organizations have the primary responsibility to fight abuse and protect athletes. Without clear and comprehensive athlete protection protocols from the Japanese Government Sports Agency, sports organizations must themselves create systems to prevent, report, investigate and sanction athlete abuse. This fragmented authority structure has resulted in inconsistent and inadequate systems to protect athletes.

“Japan must finally establish an independent national body to deal with all allegations of athlete abuse,” said Keiko Kobayashi, former director of the Japan Association of Judo Accident Victims. “My son has become severely disabled taibatsu during judo training. His case is just the tip of the iceberg. Japan needs serious reform now for the sake of future generations.


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