Japan child abuse at record high, police data shows

Generic image of boy behind bars Several high-profile cases of child abuse in Japan have drawn attention to the problem

Cases of alleged child abuse in Japan have risen to their highest level since records began 10 years ago.

Police figures indicate 187 children were the suspected victims of physical and sexual abuse in the first half of this year. Eighteen children died.

The report also found that cases of child pornography in the same period had risen by about 60% to 599 cases.

Analysts say the higher figures partly reflect an official clampdown on the sexual exploitation of children.

''It is likely that the actual number of cases is increasing, although it may be that hidden cases came to light in the wake of heightened attention,'' the National Police Agency said in its report.

The agency said that 199 people had been arrested in connection with the alleged abuse - nearly all were guardians of the children.

Disturbing cases

Several high-profile cases of child abuse in Japan have drawn widespread attention to the growing problem.

A woman was arrested last month after she allegedly left her two children, aged three and one, to starve to death in her apartment.

Neighbours said they heard the children crying hysterically, but no action was taken.

In another disturbing case, a 34-year-old woman was arrested last month for allegedly strangling her daughter to death.

She also reportedly told police she used to trap the five-year-old inside a running washing machine.

Correspondents say such cases are in stark contrast to the stereotype of traditional Japanese culture that values family ties.

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