Kyodo: UN HRC prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows. But the elephant in the room still remains no law against racial discrimination in Japan


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Hi Blog.  The UN Human Rights Council has once again prodded Japan to do something to improve its record on human rights (and this time the GOJ, which must submit a report every two years, actually submitted something on time, not eight years overdue as a combined “Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Combined Report”).  Here’s how the media reported on their interplay:


Japan Times Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012

U.N. prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows

GENEVA — A panel under the U.N. Human Rights Council has endorsed some 170 recommendations for Japan to improve its human rights record, including Tokyo’s handling of the so-called comfort women issue, the euphemism for the Imperial army’s wartime sex slaves.

The Universal Periodic Review’s working group, which is tasked with examining the human rights records of all U.N. member states, compiled 174 proposals for Japan in a report summarizing the findings from a session held last week.

While the recommendations are not legally binding, Japan has been asked to provide a response by March, when the Human Rights Council will convene for a regular session at the United Nations office in Geneva.

During last week’s session, China, North and South Korea, and numerous other countries proposed that Japan recognize its legal responsibility and provide adequate compensation to women forced into sexual slavery across Asia by the Imperial army before and during the war.

Other recommendations include the safeguarding of Japanese citizens’ right to lead a healthy life, in light of the enormous amount of radioactive fallout spewed over a vast area by the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The town of Futaba, which found itself in the center of the nuclear storm since it cohosts the wrecked plant, had actively campaigned for the inclusion of this right.

The report also called on Japan to abolish the death penalty after more than 20 countries, including prominent EU member states, objected to its continued use of capital punishment.



Universal Periodic Review – MEDIA BRIEF

Wednesday 31 October (afternoon)

(Disclaimer: The following brief is intended for use of the information media and is not an official record. The note provides a brief factual summary of the UPR Working Group meeting with the State under review and does not cover all points addressed. An official summary of the meeting can be found in the Working Group report.)

[NB:  Emphasis in bold italics added by]

State under review Japan
Represented by a 30-member delegation headed by Mr. Hideaki Ueda, Ambassador in charge of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Documents To access national report, compilation of UN information, and summary of stakeholders’ information, visit the Japan page of the UPR website
Troika * Bangladesh, Libya, Peru
Opening statement by State under review Few points raised in the  opening statement of State under review:
(See full statement on the Japan page of the UPR extranet )

  • The head of delegation noted that in July 2009 Japan ratified the Convention on enforced disappearance and in April 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up the Division for the Implementation of Human Rights Treaties;
  • In March 2011, Japan extended a standing invitation to the Special Procedures and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health was visiting the country next month;
  • In September 2012, the Cabinet adopted a decision confirming the content of a Bill to establish a Human Rights Commission  which will be an independent body compliant with the Paris Principles;
  • The Government of Japan was of the view that the application of the death penalty was unavoidable in the case of the most heinous crimes and therefore considered that the immediate abolition of the death penalty was not appropriate;
  • Japan has been working to realize a gender-equal society in various fields based on the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality formulated in December 2010;  furthermore, an Action Plan for Economic Revival through Women’s Active Participation was formulated for a gender-equal society;
  • Japan drew up an Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons in 2009 and in July 2011 the Government compiled guidelines outlining the measures to be taken by the concerned ministries and agencies engaged in combatting in persons;
  • Japan was carrying out intensive institutional reforms concerning persons with disabilities and was moving towards an early ratification of the Convention of the rights of persons with disabilities, which it has already signed;
  • In June 2008, the Diet adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people and in July 2009 the Advisory Council for the Future Ainu Policy proposed basic principles for the future Ainu policies aiming to build a rich and cohesive society where Ainu people can live with a sense of pride;
  • Noting that 19 months had passed since the earthquake of March 2011, the head of delegation stated that in order to achieve reconstruction the Government was committed to alleviating the continuing hardship of the people affected by the disaster and was decisively carrying out reconstruction projects without delay;
  • Responding to questions posed in advance, a member of the delegation noted that per the Constitution of direct or indirect discrimination was prohibited in Japan; as far as children who were born out of wedlock, provided that the authorities were notified of the birth the registration of the child’s birth was permissible;
  • In response to questions posed by States during the review, the delegation noted that the majority of Japanese people were of the view that the death penalty was unavoidable and that a life sentence in place of a death sentence was unfair for the prisoner as they were not given the possibility of release;
  • Discrimination in recruitment, wage disparity and dismissal on the basis of pregnancy were prohibited by law.
Participants In total 79 States participated in the dialogue:  28 HRC members and 51 observers  (Statements available onthe Japan page of the UPR extranet)
Positive achievements Positive achievements noted by delegations included, among others:

  • The promotion of disaster reduction policies and efforts to respect human rights during the reconstruction;
  • The extension of a standing invitation to the Special Procedures;
  • Measures to uphold the rights of the child and to combat human trafficking;
  • Steps to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities;
  • Initiatives to prevent violence against women and to advance women’s rights and the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality;
  • Achievements in the field of socio-economic development and the realization of the MDGs.
Issues and Questions Issues and questions raised by the Working Group included, among others:

  • Plans envisaged to abolish the death penalty or impose a moratorium;
  • Efforts to reform the prison/detention system and to uphold the rights of prisoners;
  • Measures to address cases of child abduction and child pornography;
  • Plans to set up a national human rights commission in compliance with the Paris Principles;
  • Steps to enhance the gender equality and eliminate gender stereotypes;
  • Anti-discrimination legislation, particularly targeting migrants and disabled persons.
Recommendations States participating in the dialogue posed a series of recommendations to Japan. These pertained to the following issues, among others:

  • Abolishing the death penalty or establishing a moratorium on its use, and establishing a national dialogue in this regard; and considering imposing a life sentence in place of a death sentence;
  • Reforming the detention system (Daiyo Kangoku) to bring it in line with international standards;
  • Defining discrimination in national legislation in line with the CERD and prohibiting all forms of discrimination including on the basis of age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or nationality and adopting specific legislation to outlaw direct and indirect racial discrimination and guaranteeing access to effective protection and remedies through competent national courts;
  • Strengthening efforts to promote and protect the rights of migrants including through public awareness and implementing a comprehensive anti-discrimination law providing effective protection against discrimination against persons with disabilities;
  • Facilitating the acquisition of nationality by all children born on its territory who would otherwise be stateless and ensuring free birth registration;
  • Taking further steps to raise public awareness of, and to eliminate gender stereotypes against women and ensuring greater political representation and participation of women in public life;
  • Conducting a comprehensive study on the situation of minority women and developing a national strategy to improve living conditions for minority women;
  • Taking measures acceptable to the victims of the issue of so-called “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War;
  • Adopting a plan of action to combat sexual exploitation of children, child pornography and prostitution and to provide assistance to victims of sexual exploitation, and reviewing legislation with a view of criminalizing the possession of child pornographic materials;
  • Step up efforts to establish a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles;
  • Protecting the right to health and life of residents living in the area of Fukushima from radioactive hazards and ensuring a visit of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health in that connection;
  • Ratification of human rights instruments:  the Convention on the rights of migrant workers, the Palermo protocol on human trafficking, OP to the CESCR, the 2nd OP to the ICCPR, the OPCAT, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the 3rd OP to the CRC,  the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, and the OP to CEDAW.
Adoption of reportof Working Group The adoption of the report of the UPR Working Group on Japan is scheduled to take place on Friday, 2 November
  • The troikas are a group of three States selected through a drawing of lots who serve as rapporteurs and who are charged with preparing the report of the Working Group on the country review with the involvement of the State under review and assistance from the OHCHR. 

Media contact: Rolando Gómez, Public Information Officer, OHCHR, + 41(0)22 917 9711,

DETAILED SOURCES,,,,JPN,4562d8cf2,506d55922,0.html


So you see, once again the GOJ is avoiding the topic of creating a legal framework to protect people against racial discrimination — claiming it’s already forbidden by the Japanese Constitution (but as we’ve stressed here umpteen times, no explicit law in the Civil or Criminal Code means no enforcement of the Constitution).  But all the UN HRC seems to be able to do is frown a lot and continue the talk shop.  Further, the UN still chooses the word “migrants” over “immigrants”, which makes NJ (and their J children) who need these rights look like they’re only temporary workers — the “blind spot” continues.  Meanwhile, Fukushima and the death penalty seem to have sucked all the oxygen out of the debate arena regarding other human rights issues.

What follows is what Japan submitted to the HRC for consideration.  As you can see, it’s basically cosmetic changes, open to plenty of bureaucratic case-by-case “discretion”, amounting to little promise of fundamental systemic or structural changes.  Arudou Debito


(screen captures of section pertinent to, pages 15-16)


3 comments on “Kyodo: UN HRC prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows. But the elephant in the room still remains no law against racial discrimination in Japan

  • Hmm… I’m surprised that with so many inclusive terms in the anti-discrimination recommendation that there was no inclusion of gender IDENTITY or gender PRESENTATION, both of which ought to be on the list. The term “gender” hasn’t prevented discrimination in countries with fairly robust anti-discrimination legislation. It’s just as important to include as sexual orientation.

    On another note, while I am well aware of the pervasive nature of the lolicon concept, I was not aware Japan had a terrible record with child pornography (and I’m not including drawn materials, I’m talking actual children engaged in inappropriate acts). Am I wrong? Is this a serious issue not being adressed effectively versus the West?

  • The GOJ / Japanese politicians / Japanese people do not want or need specific language protecting the rights of NJ.

    They keep their laws vague on purpose:
    It lets them fast track a citizenship application when Donald Keene applies, but take their time when a less desirable person applies.
    They use it to keep Yakuza in their place, nearby when they need them, deniable all other times.
    It helps to impede foreign products entry into the Japanese market.

    In short, the average person in Japan has benefited greatly under the current system. A few have not. But Japan is all about the group. What you propose, Debito, does not benefit the group (them).

    You want to live in a country that protects its minorities, and offers opportunity regardless of religion or race? Try Canada or the U.S. – that is not Japan. They don’t want to become the land of opportunity. It really is that simple.

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    Pretty damning numbers.

    “Seeing refugees as regular members of Japanese society

    This year, the third since Japan launched a refugee resettlement system for refugees forced out of their homelands, it appears that the number of refugees applying to come and settle in Japan will sink to zero.

    Supporters of these refugees warn that if nothing is done to improve the situation, Japan will be left behind by international society. This prodded me into thinking about what stance the nation should take on the refugees who fill the world?

    Since 2010, 45 Myanmar refugees who had resided in refugee camps in Thailand have come to Japan to live under the nation’s refugee resettlement system. In September this year, Japan was due to accept 16 refugees from three families in its third round of the resettlement program. But before they left Thailand, relatives of one of the three families pleaded with them not to go, and that family subsequently made a turnabout and remained in Thailand. Another related family joined them in staying behind, and the remaining family felt uneasy about moving to Japan alone, so gave up on the idea. In the end, the number of applicants is said to have fallen to zero.

    Hiroaki Ishii, executive director of the Tokyo-based Japan Association for Refugees, commented, “When the refugee resettlement system was introduced, international society expressed expectations for Japan, believing that the country had started to display an active stance in accepting refugees. Not surprisingly, the evaluation of various governments and supporters has now hit rock bottom.”

    In 2010, the United States accepted 54,077 refugees for resettlement. The corresponding figures for Canada and Australia were 6,706, and 5,636, respectively. Japan, on the other hand, accepted a mere 27 in its resettlement system. International society, which realized that Japan is not a country built on immigration, hoped that Japan could give birth to a small system that would grow into a large one. In March this year, Japan decided to extend the system for another two years, but the shock of having no applicants is rocking the system’s foundations.

    On Nov. 7, a government panel of experts met to discuss the refugee resettlement system, and criticized Japan’s overly strict selection criteria. Under the current system, only refugee families of Myanmar’s Karen people with small children are eligible. The system does not take into account the possibility that refugees’ parents remaining in refugee camps will come to Japan to live with them. But now it is almost too late to relax the requirements.

    Improvements in the way refugees are accepted once they arrive in Japan are also vital. Two families from the first round of Myanmar refugees that arrived in Japan the year before last underwent workplace adaption training at an agricultural corporation in Chiba Prefecture, but claimed they were forced to work for long hours, contrary to what they had been told, and so they refused to work for the corporation and moved to Tokyo instead. The possibility cannot be ruled out that news of the commotion surrounding these two families eventually made its way to the refugee camp in Thailand, prompting other families to refrain from applying for the refugee resettlement program.

    Refugees undergo a mere half year of Japanese language training and lifestyle guidance — hardly enough for them to become settled in Japan. A more meticulous and enduring type of support is needed. Mika Hasebe, a specially appointed lecturer at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, comments, “We’re lacking a perspective on ‘social integration’ that considers how refugees can blend in to become members of society — not just with regard to the refugee resettlement system, but with respect to the nation’s refugee policy as a whole.

    After the Vietnam War, large numbers of refugees streamed out of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and between 1978 and 2005, Japan accepted 11,000 refugees as long-term residents. But follow-up surveys were insufficient, and the total number of refugees who have settled in Japan remains unknown. Academic research has only just begun, and the issue attracts the interest of few members of the Japanese public.

    Han Sokoeun, a 31-year-old former Cambodian refugee can probably be considered a success story, having fitted well into Japanese society. She came to Japan with her mother and father when she was 5, and attended elementary and junior high school in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Isehara. After graduating from high school, she started working at a factory producing kamaboko, a seafood product. She married a Cambodian man she had known from when she was young, and gave birth to two daughters. In November last year, she obtained Japanese citizenship, and she also managed to obtain a chef’s license.

    “The friends I made through my volleyball club activities during my elementary school days gave me great support,” she reflects. But many refugees who fail to encounter Japanese friends they can rely on fall behind in school, struggle with poverty, end up on welfare or fall mentally ill when they are unable to adapt to Japanese society.

    In October this year, Han, after spending 25 years in Japan, left the country and returned to her homeland with her husband and daughters. Before she left, I asked her, “Why are you leaving when it seems you’ve succeeded in settling here?” She confessed that living expenses had prevented her from saving money, then, looking grim, she added, “Although I was fortunately blessed with friends, really in Japan refugees are treated as outcasts. I thought about the future of my children.”

    In Australia, refugees who have succeeded in settling in that country support other newly arrived refugees, and in Canada, some doctors who were once refugees have taken up jobs in doctor-less villages. Systems such as these allow refugees to contribute to society.

    Attempts to help refugees become financially independent are also underway in Japan. The Entrepreneurship Support Program for Refugee Empowerment, a public interest incorporated association located in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, for example, helps refugees from Pakistan in the used car export business extend their first loans.

    What we need is a change in thinking, whereby Japan considers the refugee population as a force with a role to play in society. (“As I See It,” By Hiroshi Takahashi, News Research and Review Headquarters, Mainichi Shimbun)

    December 01, 2012(Mainichi Japan)”


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