Yomiuri: UN set to criticize Japan for lack of gender equality and flawed marriage law (read: child abductions after divorce)


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Hi Blog.  A bit of a tangent, as it doesn’t talk about human rights for NJ in specific, but it shows how in other areas the GOJ plays the same old game of bait and switch with the UN and human rights groups, and refuses to come to terms with trends and pressures one finds in other fellow modern, industrialized countries.

Comment from submitter:  Excellent Yomiuri article on gender inequality in Japan – While this article doesn’t directly touch on child abduction issues it does discuss issues that might lead to and allow forced retention. A very good read.


Gender equality long overdue / U.N. set to rap govt stance on women’s rights, marriage law, education
By Mihoko Tsukino / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Daily Yomiuri Jul. 30, 2009

The U.N. watchdog panel on gender equality is poised to issue recommendations to Japan in which it will address this nation’s delay in implementing policies to bring about equality between men and women.

The government should humbly accept the findings of the expert U.N. panel known as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and lawmakers are urged to buckle down and begin implementing a wide range of gender equality measures.

The pact that sets out the principles covering equality of the sexes– officially called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women–was adopted by a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in 1979. Japan ratified the convention in 1985.

Known as the women’s rights version of the Bill of Rights, the convention stipulates the equality of women and men in political and public activities, calls for the prohibition of sexual exploitation of women and inequality in access to education and employment, as well as discrimination on the basis of sex in marital and family relations.

Signatory countries to the convention, now numbering 186, are required to periodically undergo monitoring by CEDAW by submitting reports to the panel on measures taken to comply with their obligations under the treaty.

CEDAW tracks the progress of parties to the treaty in rectifying inequalities and draws up recommendations to address shortcomings, prodding nations to take legislative and other remedial actions, including changing their social systems.


Japan severely criticized

Last Thursday, CEDAW screened a report presented by the Japanese government at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

The screening of Japan’s records on elimination efforts of discrimination against women was the first in six years. Japan had previously been screened three times.

CEDAW singled out various areas in which efforts by the Japanese government were considered to have fallen short of addressing problems linked to gender discrimination. Among them were a failure to conduct in-depth discussions on the need to revise the Civil Code–which leads to discriminatory treatment of children born outside of marriage in inheritance procedures–and a provision that stipulates married couples should have the same surname.

The U.N. committee also took note of what it regards as Japan’s retrogressive gender equality education and sex education, as well as a slow pace of improvement in women’s social participation.

The Japanese officials who replied to questioning at the CEDAW screening session were drawn from the Cabinet Office, the Justice Ministry and the Education, Science and Technology Ministry.

Some of them were reportedly subject to such warnings from panel members as “not to repeat replies to the same effect” as those given by previous Japanese officials, or asked sternly to “provide explanations in more concrete terms.”

Yoko Osawa, a member of a Japanese nongovernmental body called mNet- Information Network for Amending the Civil Code, who sat in on the committee session, said, “Most members of the Japanese government delegation made a point of repeating prepared, boilerplate explanations of systems and laws in response to the various questions posed by the CEDAW members.

“Several CEDAW members pulled the translation headphones out of their ears, apparently because they were so disgusted,” Osawa said.

As lawyer Mikiko Otani, an expert in international human rights law, put it, “The way the Japanese officials responded to the panel members should be considered a reflection of their lack of knowledge of the U.N. treaty and also Japan’s lack of a sense of responsibility as a signatory country to the treaty.”

“I think Japan, a country that seeks to hold a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, should be ashamed of being subject to such criticism from the gender equality panel,” she added.

The pact for abolishing discrimination against women has led Japan to enact a number of laws, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in 1985 and laws requiring both boys and girls to take a homemaking course in middle school and high school, enacted in 1993 and 1994, respectively.

Although CEDAW recommendations have no binding power, they nonetheless have been a catalyst for advancing gender equality, such as spurring this nation’s legislation to bring about the Basic Law for a Gender- Equal Society in 1999 and the Domestic Violence Prevention Law in 2001.

However, a mountain of issues remain unaddressed.

Japan ranked 58th among 108 countries on the most recent U.N. index on women’s social participation, one of the the lowest among industrially advanced nations.

Highlighting the disparity between women and men in this nation, women account for less than 10 percent of the members of the House of Representatives, while women section chiefs in private sector companies stand at a mere 6.6 percent.


Optional Protocol left unratified

Every one of this nation’s lawmakers should be held responsible for failing to pay due attention to the international gender equality treaty and related U.N. recommendations that have resulted in delays in ending the disparities that disadvantage women.

A legislator-sponsored bill calling for a revision of the Civil Code in response to CEDAW recommendations has been repeatedly presented to the Diet. But the bill that would delete provisions that discriminate against women has been scrapped every time without in-depth deliberation.

Japan’s failure to ratify the Optional Protocol on the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women also is being questioned by the international community.

The protocol stipulates that a mechanism should be put in place that would allow individual women who have exhausted legal and other avenues available within Japan to report directly to CEDAW to ask them to inquire into alleged human rights violations against them.

As Japan has been repeatedly urged to ratify the protocol, government ministries and agencies concerned have been studying the wisdom of doing so.

However, with many politicians expressing wariness about signing a protocol they say might come into conflict with the principle of independence of the nation’s judiciary, no earnest discussions have yet to take place in the political arena.

Following the latest screening by CEDAW, a new set of recommendations will be issued as early as late August, around the time new members of the lower house have been elected in the coming general election.

Judging from the way CEDAW carried out the screening of the Japanese government-submitted report, its recommendations will most likely be pretty tough.

This country should be humble in accepting the forthcoming recommendations and both the government and legislature should be ready to tackle the task of adopting and enforcing gender equality policies in a way considered worthy of a full member of the international community.

(Jul. 30, 2009)

15 comments on “Yomiuri: UN set to criticize Japan for lack of gender equality and flawed marriage law (read: child abductions after divorce)

  • My family experienced this gender discrimination recently.

    My wife, a well-repected employee at a large Japanese electronics company in Tohoku found her maternity leave becoming unemployment – due to the economic downturn, of course. She keeps up-to-date with the people she used to work with and the redundancies followed a sadly predictable route: first the women got the boot, then some of the younger men, and now – at teeth gritting time – some of the older staff are being made redundant (shock, horror!).

    Now this ‘ladies first’ policy is nothing new at this company – up until recently female shopfloor workers were forced to retire at 40. I’m not sure why this was enforced – but I suspect that past forty they were not considered marriagable.

    I know the old excuse is: the men are the main breadwinners in Japan – so they must be spared for the sake of their families. However, if the concern is for the families, then surely the basic circumstances of the employee’s families should be taken into consideration. Our household needed two salaries coming in – especially given our recent addition. There was no consideration of this at all, as far as I could see. Now in fairness my wife’s bosses tried to retain her – but redundancies came from on high, so that was wasted effort on their part.

  • I know I’m not knowledgeable in international politics, but what is the UN really doing if they are just issuing “stern warnings” etc and not actually imposing penalties for not doing what they had recommended before? I realize that the UN really doesn’t have control over what Japan does, but what is the purpose of the meetings if nothing will come out of them?

  • what is the UN really doing if they are just issuing “stern warnings” etc and not actually imposing penalties

    What is the UN doing? Wasting breath. They represent no one.

    Which UN members did you vote for?

  • E.P.
    Your wife’s maternity, depending on the terms of the work contract, and the length of the term she decides to take off (including the leave taken prior to the birth, and the mandatory eight week leave taken after the birth), would probably include some period in which she is technically eligible for unemployment benefits. That’s how I originally read your comment, but I now take it to mean that she was fired while on maternity leave (?)

    That’s illegal. I cannot recall for sure, but I believe a company cannot let her go until at the shortest month after she returns from her leave.

    In any event, Joe’s correct: I would find out exactly why she was let go, and I would seek legal advice.

  • GiantPanda says:

    EP – on maternity leave here myself so I do know what the law is. The Labor Standards Law says that you cannot fire an employee within 30 days after she returns from maternity leave. I suspect your wife may have been persuaded to take a redundancy package or been asked to resign. In that case, you probably don’t have much legal protection, but if they actually fired her, and she didn’t sign any resignation agreement, then what they have done is clearly illegal and you should consult a lawyer and/or consult with the local Labor Standards Bureau.

  • Politics as we know it should radically change once the LDP is finally kicked out of power at the end of this month.

    I know that our new Minshuto overlords will have an awful lot on their plate, but this would be an excellent chance for the NJ rights movement to consolidate the most pressing issues and present them anew to the new government. If Minshuto can bring Japan’s democracy and fiscal responsibility into the 21st century, maybe they can do the same for human rights as well.

  • Thanks for the supportive words folks. My wife lost her job whilst on maternity leave, but it was agreed (as it always seems to be up in Tohoku) and she got a few months unemployment benefit too.

    I was pretty peeved about it, but my wife was expecting, and didn’t wish to make a fuss, so my hands were tied. Even if we both had wanted to take action I think the fear of being branded a ‘troublemaker’ would have stayed any action. Being branded a ‘troublemaker’ carries severe consequences for future employment in Tohoku…

  • D.B.Cooper. says:

    As this is the last entry that touches on child abductions I’m sending this article here. Although it doesn’t mention Japan I hope some will find it useful.

    The government has little power to intervene in around 40% of all abduction cases, as they involve children being taken to countries not signed up to the Hague convention, an international treaty which obliges nations to promptly return children wrongfully retained in their jurisdiction.


  • OK, tell you how good Japanese Social system is and what Japanese do to go around. This is real story (sorry cannot give you too much details). Japanese husband lost his job a few months ago. He has family of 6, wife unemployed. He tried to start his own business as he straggled to get a new job. Unfortunately he couldn`t make it, because none of banks would lend him money. Whole family had to move out from a place they lived as they were unable to pay a rent. GoJ don`t give a sh*** and there is no help,but…hold on…the couple have decided to divorce (on paper only). Mother became single one and it means she could finally get some help over 100,000yen a month. Husband probably found new job but far away from were they lived. Wife with children moved to very small 1K app. At least they have “roof”. If she was with her husband still married they wouldn`t get a dime from Gov.
    I think this is why many J couples divorce when husband lose a job. I don`t think always the reason is “no money, no more love”. The reason is system.

  • paul toland says:

    If Japan by some miracle ever actually signs the Hague Treaty on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, this article provides a good indicator of how they would comply (or not comply) with the treaty.

  • @D.B.Cooper
    I don`t know why, but it looks like foreign media scare too much to write about Japan. There are so many int`l issues involving this country but nobody goes deeper than a few words or not at all. Does GoJ control the world media too?

  • To Debito,

    I thought you might be interested to look at this:


    国際結婚:破局後の子供連れ去り 高額弁護費に母親悲痛

    2009年9月5日 15時0分













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