In March 2019, several sexual cases were given the verdict of “not guilty” by the court acknowledging sexual assault and abuse.
On April 11, over 500 women gathered in front of Tokyo Station, despite the cold spring night. Something that no one had imagined has happened. Although the demonstration was over, although the speeches were over, no one went back home. A lot of women, one after the other, got the mic and began speaking. It was as if the lid, which had long trapped our pain, suddenly was set free.
Much of the talk has been about sexual violence in the past. Although we might be telling our stories now, we can't change the past. But we have begun to speak of the pain of our past so that it will not happen again in order to change our future.
That night was the beginning of everything.
The following month of April, in Fukuoka and Osaka, and in June in Nagoya and Sendai.
Our voices are gaining momentum and, as of January 2020, Flower Demo has spread to 33 prefectures nationwide.
It has been said that #MeToo will not start in Japan. Some say that Japanese women are not strong enough.
But # MeToo's voice would not have been raised if there was no one listening or believing in your voice.
That is why we have decided to have a flower as a symbol of #WithYou, saying "we believe you and we are always on your side".
It became clear that it wasn’t the case of victims cannot speak out, it was the case of society not letting the victims speak. In fact, the victims have always spoken out about their struggles. However, the society who puts the victim and the perpetrator side by side, to judge who is lying or not, shut the victim’s voice. This society did not have the ability to hear the voices of the victims.
Flower Demo is held not only in large cities but also in places closer to our homes. Because sexual violence occurs in our daily lives. Places where we should feel the safest becomes the environment that scares us with violence.
How many children have been in despair today?
How many people are having dreadful, regretful and suffering nights?
How many victims are silenced and how many perpetrators live as if nothing has happened?
There was a cynical voice for the Flower Demo. "Demonstration doesn't change anything."
But on the night of April 11, we made a promise.
"Let's change the society where the victims have to be silent. Let's make our little voice public opinion."
In December 2019, Shiori Ito won her case at the Civil Court. The verdict does not only acknowledge Shiori’s struggle but all the victims of sexual violence who are still suffering. Such a ruling might not have been obtained a year ago. The ruling made us feel the hope in which the voices of the sexual assault victims have changed society.
Raising our voice is not a waste. We can make a change.
Flower Demo is celebrating its first anniversary on March 8, 2020, International Women's Day, and it is the final gathering of the official Flower Demo.
We aim to have the Flower Demo in all prefectures on that day. 2020 will be an important year to solve the remaining issues of the revision of the 2017 Sex Criminal Criminal Code. From April onwards, let's spread this voice that we have built-up in various places.
Let’s raise our voice for a world that is free of sexual violence. And let’s raise our voice with a goal to reforming the criminal code from the victim's perspective.
Translated by：Elif Erdogan