The women fighting Japan’s sexual violence stigma

Rina Gonoi had two dreams. To be a soldier, and to compete in the Olympics as a judo player.

She started judo when she was four years old, trained by her brother, and was 11 when she first saw soldiers in action.

The armed forces, known in Japan as the Self-Defence Forces (SDF), had helped Ms Gonoi and her family in an evacuation centre after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. The 23-year-old is from Higashi-Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture – the area worst hit by that catastrophe.

Female soldiers were part of the aid effort. “They gave us food and ran a soup kitchen,” Ms Gonoi says.

“They were back and forth bringing hot water for us so we could have a bath. I looked at them and thought ‘What a wonderful job.’ I thought I would like to work for society – for the people.”

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