GOJ Cabinet’s odd survey on human rights 2007

Hi Blog. Been a bit late getting to this, but thanks to Ken Y-N at the Seron Blog for getting the word out. Debito.org will select and amplify some points:

BACKGROUND: On August 25, 2007, the GOJ released its latest findings on a human-rights survey it conducts every four years. Entitled the “Jinken Yougo ni Kansuru Yoron Chousa” (Public Survey Regarding the Defense of Human Rights), it is put out by a Cabinet office called the Naikakufu Daijin Kanbou Seifu Koukoku Shitsu. Survey available online in its entirety in Japanese at http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/h19/h19-jinken/.

Ken Y-N has already translated the whole thing into English with some interpretations at:

As far as Debito.org goes, the survey had some good news:

As opposed to the survey’s results in 1999 and 2003 (which showed a steady decline in the number of people who thought that NJ deserved the same human rights as Japanese), the number rose this time by 5.3 points to 59.3% in favor.

Of course this begs the question of why the question is being asked at all (as if human rights for fellow humans with extranationality are a matter of popularity polls, something even the UN criticized Japan for nearly a decade ago (CCPR/C/79/Add.102 Item C(7)). But never mind. Back to the good news:

Full report on previous Cabinet Surveys on Debito.org at http://www.debito.org/jinkenreport0403.html, particularly:
“Overall, 54% said that foreigners should have the same protection of human rights as Japanese (nihon kokuseki wo motanai hito demo, nihonjin to onaji you ni jinken ha mamorubeki da). This is a steady decline from 68.3% 10 years ago, and 65.5% 5 years ago.

Reasons why can only be speculated upon, but contemporary newspaper articles quoted the Justice Ministry as saying that maybe the sudden rise in crime by foreigners may have affected the outcome of the poll.”
http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/news/20030412p2a00m0dm016000c.html [dead link, sorry]

This time around, Kyodo interpreted some results thusly:
“A record 42% of people in Japan feel that human rights abuses have increased in the country, the Cabinet Office said in a survey report Saturday. In response to the 5.8 percentage point increase from the previous survey in 2003, the Justice Ministry’s Human Rights Bureau said, “It was likely affected by the spread of the Internet.”

So this time it’s the spread of a network for anonymizing libel and ijime, as opposed to NJ being let in and being portrayed erroneously as criminals by our government, which is thought to have affected the numbers. But never mind again. As a victim of Internet libel myself (who won his unrequited case against BBS 2-Channel in 2006, see http://www.debito.org/2channelsojou.html), I can see the need for voices to be raised against these cowardly anonymous bullies who spoil the Internet for the rest of us.

But here are some further comments about the survey:


The goal of the survey, as expressed by the GOJ itself, (http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/h19/h19-jinken/1.html), is “to survey the awareness of citizens (kokumin) regarding human rights protections, in order to apply them towards shaping future policy” (jinken yougo ni kansuru kokumin no ishiki o chousa shi, kongou no shisaku no sankou to suru).

Well, aren’t we thus already biasing the sample? If we only surveying “kokumin”, we aren’t surveying NJ, even though they too are taxpaying residents, and should have a say in public policies–especially those which will affect them profoundly as anti-discrimination measures.

Maybe that’s why so few people thought they had experienced “racial discrimination” in the survey. See Q3 SQ: 13.9% facing “discriminatory treatment (race, creed, gender etc.)”, behind “rumors and people speaking ill of me”, “invasion of privacy”, “defamation”, “public nuisances (noise, foul odors)”; nearly half of the 16% who responded that they had faced a violation of their human rights noted “rumors”.

Bet if the GOJ interviewed more people without citizenship or Asian features, who sometimes face apartment refusals or JAPANESE ONLY signs in storefronts, they might get quite different figures.

(I also bet most of the 14% noting “discriminatory treatment” were women facing discrimination by gender, too; not in any way to lessen the severity of that type of discrimination, but it’s hardly something you can lump all together as one category like that and get meaningful results. Good thing multiple answers were permitted.)


The survey itself asks some really odd questions too, come to think of it.

For example, we have “human rights” categorized in odd ways in Q3 SQ. In addition to the five examples of “human rights violations” mentioned above, we have “violence, duress, extortion”, “unjust police treatment”, “unfair treatment at work”, “falling out with the local community”, “sexual harassment”, “stalking”, “false accusations of crimes”, “unjust treatment at public welfare facilities”, “denial of domestic utilities at home” (such as water, gas), “other”, and “nantonaku” (nothing I can put my finger on, but it’s there).

Uh, even with these questions leading the witness, a number of these are not necessarily mutually exclusive categories (gender discrimination and sexual harassment, or rumors and defamation, for example), some are too vague (nantonaku, of course), and some are not exactly pin-downable as examples of “human rights” in themselves (falling out with the neighbors? stoppage of domestic utilities? public-welfare rudeness?)

If we’re going to break things down this much, then where is “bullying” (ijime)? Well, that’s the domain of kids, I guess, and this survey was only surveying people aged twenty and up. But I’m not sure where the shadow falls above.

Bigger issue is that many of these items are what I would call the “crybaby” variety. Items like “people speaking ill of me” and “rumors” are scientifically difficult to quantify (even could be argued as inevitable in human interaction, seen as “perceived slights by the paranoid”), and invite people (myself included) to tell them to develop a thicker skin.

And “public nuisances”? You might have people complaining that a stinky public toilet or a juicy fart in an elevator is a violation of human rights!

No wonder many people have trouble taking human-rights activists seriously, when the definitions is so ill-defined even in the official questions! In any case, many of these items would not fall under protection in the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination anyway, as the CERD does not cover interactions between individuals.


Some more comments:

Q5 asks “Within Japan, which of the following human rights issues are you concerned about?” (multiple answers OK). Discrimination against “foreigners” comes in 14th at 12.5%, behind “the disabled”, “the elderly”, “children”, “Internet abuse victims”, “DPRK kidnap victims”, “women”, “crime victims”, “HIV sufferers”, “Leprosy victims”, “homeless”, “Burakumin”, “ex-convicts”, and “human trafficking”–almost all worthy causes in themselves, of course. But since multiple answers are also possible, let’s see if we can raise the awareness of discrimination towards NJ better in time for the next survey.

The next questions ask for comment about “human rights problems” specifically directed at specific sectors of society: Women (choices of “human rights violations” include porno and scantily-clad women in advertising), children (including being too forceful with their opinions over their children’s school, work, etc), the elderly (including lack of respect for their opinions/actions), the disabled (including being stared at), the Burakumin, HIV patients, crime victims, the homeless, affectional preferences, and the Ainu. Nice of the GOJ to offer (even arguably overdo) several categories with examples of possible discrimination, thank you.

However, when it comes to discrimination against foreigners (Q12 and 13), we don’t get any list of leading questions. Only some doubt as to whether NJ are actually being discriminated against (Q12) and questions on whether NJ have any right to equal rights at all. No question like this is raised towards the other groups. Again, when even a GOJ survey allows for the possibility of human rights being optional based upon nationality, we have a problem. Especially when nowhere in the survey is the possibility raised that people who look foreign might actually be Japanese; discrimination by race is a subset within a larger umbrella, and discrimination by nationality is undeserving of its own special question like the other groups?

Finally, there is the question on how human rights should be promoted in Japan. It’s a decent wish list with most responses receiving a decent slice of multiple options. Again, the entire report is all very well written up by Ken Y-N, so have a look at:


Still surprises me just how clueless even our government professionals are about the portrayal and promotion of human rights in Japan. This survey is most enlightening when viewed from that angle.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

4 comments on “GOJ Cabinet’s odd survey on human rights 2007

  • It sounds scary that only fifty-four percent of the respondents said ‘that foreigners should have the same protection of human rights’ as Japanese.
    I could see being denied ‘citizens’ rights’ but not ‘human rights’.

  • Great article! I also find it amazing how Japanese can’t comprehend that someone or some method that is different from what they are used to could be valid. Come to think of it there is a lot of “we are great!” attitudes around unsupported by any evidence at all… like how many times have you heard how wonderful the Japanese are at volleyball despite poor international performances? Where do these ideas come from? I try to make a habit of assisting strangers if they may need it, however I’m yet to see a Japanese person lend a hand to one of their countrimen. Aren’t I more Japanese than they?

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