TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday (Jan 9) vowed to crack down on the increasing number of child abuse cases in Japan after the death of a 10-year-old girl, allegedly killed by her abusive father, shocked the country.
Mia Kurihara was found dead in the bathroom of her home in Chiba near Tokyo last month after authorities failed to respond to her repeated pleas for help.
Her parents have been arrested on suspicion of assaulting their daughter after her father reportedly abused her regularly and refused to allow her to go to school.
The tragedy came more than a year after she asked her teacher to help stop her father from "beating and kicking" her.
She was temporarily protected by child welfare officials but returned to relatives about two months later. She was then brought back to her parents in March last year.
Police have found a video on her father's mobile phone showing him hitting her, local media said, adding that she cried in the footage saying: "Dad, I'm sorry."
The high-profile case has drawn huge media attention, prompting the government to take action amid growing public awareness over child abuse.
Abe told members of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party that his government had ordered child welfare centres across the nation to confirm within a month the safety of all children suspected to have been abused.
Abe also said the government would raise the number of child welfare workers by some 1,000 for the next fiscal year starting in April from the current 3,200.
"It was a painful case which is all too regrettable," Abe said.
"Protecting children's lives is our adults' responsibility," he added.
Police reported the suspected abuse of a record-high 80,104 minors to child welfare authorities in Japan in 2018, Kyodo News said.
The figure rose by 22.4 per cent from a year earlier, it said.