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Products for grant FEL-268275-20

In the Arena of the Courts: Law and Gender in Japan, 1871-1912
Susan Burns, University of Chicago

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Sexual Assault and the Evidential Body: Forensic Medicine and Law in Modern Japan (Article)
Title: Sexual Assault and the Evidential Body: Forensic Medicine and Law in Modern Japan
Author: Susan L. Burns
Abstract: This article explores the formation of what Christopher Hamlin has called a “forensic culture” in late nineteenth-century Japan, and its impact on the prosecution of crimes of sexual violence. Before the 1870s, acts of rape often went unpunished or were resolved through private monetary settlements between the victim and her family and the rapist. However, after the formation of the modern Japanese state in 1868, legal reform, an important aspect of the state-building process, created a new opportunity for victims to seek legal redress. Over the course of a decade, an unprecedented number of rapes were prosecuted, with most resulting in convictions and long prison terms for the perpetrators. That situation, however, changed as forensic medicine came to be institutionalized as a specific medical discipline and as part of the criminal justice system. Viewed by the police and jurists as modern, scientific, and rational, forensic medicine created a new standard for what counted as evidence, with the result that the testimony of the victim and others was devalued in favor of traces of blood, semen, and bodily injury—evidence that, as some contemporaries noted, ignored the reality of rape.
Year: 2021
Primary URL:
Access Model: Subscription
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Osiris
Publisher: University of Chicago Press for the History of Science Society