Asahi: Setagaya Ward plans to battle inter alia racial, ethnic discrimination (in specific) in a local ordinance. Progressive steps!


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Hi Blog. Here’s something important. Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku tries to do what Tottori Prefecture tried to do in 2005 (which was, pass Japan’s first ordinance specifically against racial discrimination, which is still NOT illegal in Japan; alas, Tottori UNpassed it months later). To be sure, Setagaya-ku’s goals are obscured behind the typical slogans of “discrimination due to differences in culture”, and there isn’t even a mention of “racial discrimination” (rendered as jinshu sabetsu) in this Setagaya-ku pamphlet briefing on the issue from last September.  But baby steps, and the issue of “racial discrimination” (which has long been denied even as existing in Japan) has had domestic media traction as an actual, existing problem because of Setagaya-ku. Let’s hope this serves as a template for other legislative bodies this time. Dr. Debito Arudou


Setagaya Ward plans to battle racial, ethnic discrimination
By TAICHIRO YOSHINO, Asahi Shinbun, February 28, 2018, courtesy of GDO

Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward has drafted an ordinance designed to protect racial, ethnic and sexual minorities from discriminatory practices, a move hailed by human rights experts as an “advanced measure.”

The ward was one of the first local governments in Japan to recognize same-sex marriages, and the draft ordinance covers sexual minorities.

However, the draft specifically notes that its target also includes discrimination based on nationality and race.

Under the plan, the ward will establish a committee that will handle public complaints about discrimination and advise the mayor on what measures to take.

A standing committee of the Setagaya Ward assembly approved the draft on Feb. 26. The assembly is expected to adopt the ordinance at a plenary session on March 2, and it will likely take effect in April.

“I have never heard of an ordinance that is intended to end discrimination based on nationality and race and will create a system for handling complaints,” said lawyer Kim Chang-ho, a third-generation ethnic Korean and a member of a nongovernmental organization that protects the human rights of foreign residents in Japan.

“The ordinance will be of help in collecting evidence when victims call for action on discriminatory problems. I hope that the measure will spread nationwide,” Kim said.

Other municipalities have complaint management committees, but they mainly handle cases of sexual discrimination.

The Setagaya Ward committee will consist of three members who will act as advisers to the mayor.

Although the draft contained no punitive measures against offenders, it did suggest possible action that could be taken.

The ward, for example, could refuse to allow hate-speech groups to use public spaces and facilities for demonstrations and meetings. The ward also wants to ensure the needs of sexual minorities and other groups are met when they use public facilities.

In addition, the ward could issue “improvement” instructions to landlords who refuse to rent apartments to minorities, as well as those responsible for discriminatory graffiti or online videos.

Shigenori Nakagawa, a lawyer involved in protecting the rights of sexual minorities, praised the ward’s move.

“Amid a society where discrimination and stereotypes about sexual minorities are deeply rooted, it is meaningful to clearly specify basic social rules,” Nakagawa said.


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9 comments on “Asahi: Setagaya Ward plans to battle inter alia racial, ethnic discrimination (in specific) in a local ordinance. Progressive steps!

  • Setagaya does not recognize same sex marriage, nor give any legal rexognition to same sex couples.
    They just give a meaningless piece of paper that has no legal benefit what so ever as a PR stunt.

    • Interesting. Thank you for the reality reminder, Shiki. Good point.

      Yep, if not sufficiently vigilant about performing critical reading at all times, we can easily be fooled by misleading Public-Relations Press-Release “News” Stories (and the subsequent misleading Wikipedia regurgitation of such PR) into erroneously assuming:

      “Shibuya and Setagaya, plus 5 other wonderful cities/wards in Japan boldly enacted the ultra-progressive ordinance of allowing Same-Sex Marriage! Wow! Meaning, these 7 wonderful Japanese cities/wards must have passed local ordinances which require their City Hall bureaucrats to end Gender Discrimination and begin placing a male spouse onto his male spouse’s Koseki, and a female spouse onto her female spouse’s Koseki. Amazing! Japan is becoming so progressive!”

      Turns out such PR-based assumptions are wrong.

      Japan does NOT allow same-sex marriage in Japan.

      Those 7 cities/wards do NOT put a male spouse onto his male spouse’s Koseki, nor a female spouse onto her female spouse’s Koseki.

      Those 7 cities/wards simply give a “You’re gay, you’re having gay sex, you’re enjoying a gay relationship, now you two feel like you’re married, congratulations on your feelings, but you still can’t legally marry in Japan” Recognition-of-Gay-Relationship Certificate.

      These local Certificates seem cute, but Japan still absolutely does NOT allow actual City-Hall Koseki-Written Legal-Marriage to same-sex couples.

      Just as Japan still does not allow actual City-Hall Koseki-Written Legal-Registry to Non-Japanese-Citizens residing in Japan.

      (Meaning, the Koseki system still commits Nationality Discrimination: Non-Japanese-citizens still are not given Kosekis. And Japanese-citizens who marry Non-Japanese-Citizens receive a Koseki which is DIFFERENT from if they had just married a Japanese-citizen. This DIFFERENT Koseki template clearly marks the strange situation: “This Japanese person is married to a Non-Japanese person, and thus the Non-Japanese spouse does NOT get their own heading like a REGULAR spouse does.”

      (Just as Japan still does not allow actual City-Hall Jūminhyō of foreign-citizenship appear the same as Jūminhyō of “regular” residents.)

      (The Jūminhyō is a document which is supposed to be merely proving residence at a certain address for any resident in Japan, and should not be mentioning race or nationality, but the Jūminhyō still marks “foreign-citizenship residents-of-Japan” differently than “regular residents” by adding fields such as “外国人住となった日” meaning “Date of becoming a Foreigner Resident” which effectively translates to “Dear whomever is demanding this person prove their address with a Jūminhyō, we Japanese CIty Hall bureaucrats are ALSO hereby forcing onto this address-proof-document some unrequested extra information: this person is NOT a Regular-Resident, this person is a FOREIGNER-Resident. Take note of this person’s FOREIGNNESS when making your upcoming decision about hiring, renting, loans, etc.”)

      In the same way as those 7 cities’/wards’ Gay-Certificates are meaningless PR platitudes, I suspect the same of any upcoming local Recognition-of-Cultural-Difference ordinances/pamphlets/PR campaigns:

      #1. Which do NOT even admit to EVEN THE WORDS “Racial Discrimination” themselves, thus de-facto denying the existence of Racial Discrimination, thus de-facto claiming that no humans in Japan can ever be victims of Racial Discrimination, and

      #2. using instead the victim-blaming phrase of “cultural differences” which pretends that a Japanese landlord who refuses renters based on race is NOT committing racial discrimination (because the term racial discrimination is definitely not used) WHILE simultaneously pretending that the Japanese landlord might have a valid non-race-related reason for his action, namely, his concerns about “cultural differences… between the Japanese [race’s] CULTURE vs. the Foreign [races’] CULTURE, and

      #3. that some powerless panel promises to (if pushed hard enough, and totally depending on the panel’s consensus feelings about whether a business owner “did not respect ‘cultural differences’ enough”) just like the judge in Debito’s case who implied in his decision that there are “acceptable” levels of race-based-entry-denial vs. “unacceptable” levels of race-based-entry-denial)

      #4 promises to maybe, perhaps, sometimes issue mere easily-ignored “improvement requests” to landlords committing racial discrimination, maybe, and

      #5 definitely NOT promising to issue any “improvement requests” to police officers in their wards committing racial discrimination daily by initiating forced-stopping and forced-identification of “foreign race appearing” people without any reasonable suspicion of any actual crime and without probable cause of any actual crime (such stops are both racial discrimination COMBINED with illegal police questioning – “Nanika tsumi o okoshi koto o utagau ni tariru soutou na riyuu ga nai baai wa ihou na shokumu shitsumon desu.”)

      Thus I suspect such “good news” PR-ordinances do not change the fact that Racial Discrimination by business owners against Non-Japanese-Races remains absolutely legal in Japan.

  • Oldbutnotobselete says:

    What effect does the marriage of a Japanese person to a non Japanese person have on inheritance within Japan? Does the immigration status of the foreign spouse have any bearing?

  • Oldbutnotobselete says:

    The rationale for my Q is that accepting the validity of Anon’s immediate above post can a Non-Japanese, if pre-deceased by their Japanese Spouse, fully legally inherit, or could an immediate Japanese relative challenge the passage of property rights. In my case, if I pay for the rebuilding of my JPIL’s house, and later my JPILs and J-Wife pre-decease me, if the house and land were willed to my J-Wife, if not a citizen, could I actually legally inherit from my wife. Could my JSIL if so predisposed challenge?

  • @oldbutnot

    I don’t know the answer but there are free legal advice services at most major cities so I recommend you go ask there first.

  • ChizuSuteki says:

    It would be stupid easy to ding landlords that don’t rent to foreigners or homosexuals. All you need to do is ask them. They’re not afraid to tell you.

    Setagaya’s feel-good board won’t do anything. Someone else needs to.

    Here’s a worthwhile project: Call the number on 100-200 ads and keep a tally. Pose as a realtor and ask if they’re okay renting to a gay or mixed-race couple. Record the responses. Post the video.

    International finger-pointing backed by stats is the only way this becomes a mainstream conversation. Otherwise no one cares. Anecdotes from NJ on the internet aren’t going to move anything along any faster.


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