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HOME > Public Statements and Opinion Papers > Opinion Papers > Proposal Calling to Enact a Basic Act on the Rights of the Child

Proposal Calling to Enact a Basic Act on the Rights of the Child


→日本語版(Japanese)

  September 17, 2021

Japan Federation of Bar Associations

 

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (“JFBA”) compiled a proposal, “Proposal Calling to Enact a Basic Act on the Rights of the Child” dated September 17, 2021, and submitted it on September 21, 2021 to the Prime Minister; the Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications; the Minister of Justice; the Minister for Foreign Affairs; the Minister of Finance; the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare; the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry; the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism; the Commissioner General of the National Police Agency; the Speaker of the House of Representatives; and the President of the House of Councilors.


Summary of Proposal

  1. 1. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) proposes that the Government enact a Basic Act on the Rights of the Child as the overarching law related to children.


  2. 2. The JFBA suggests that, during the process towards the enactment of a Basic Act on the Rights of the Child, the attached annex, A Proposed Basic Act on the Rights of the Child (*), be consulted in order to realize the ideals enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the “Convention”).


Grounds for Proposal

  1. I. Needs to Enact a Basic Act on the Rights of the Child
    1. 1. All human beings are entitled equally to enjoy human rights and nobody should impair their individual dignity. Children are no exception from this principle. Children continue to grow and develop from the beginning of life and have the right to grow up healthy as beings that live present and future. However, because children are still in the process of growth and development, they have needs for adult protection and assistance. Additionally, given that children are susceptible to violations of human rights and do not have the right to vote, it is difficult for them to have their opinion reflected on the measures and policies taken by the national and local governments and on the modalities of society. Thus, special consideration needs to be given in order to guarantee the fundamental human rights of children.


    2.  Taking into account these distinctive features of guaranteeing human rights of children, the United Nations adopted the Convention in 1989.


    3.  The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has identified the core rights inherent to children as the following four general principles in the Convention: (i) non-discrimination (Article 2); (ii) consideration to the best interests of the child (Article 3, paragraph (1)); (iii) guarantee of the right to life, survival, and development (Article 6); and (iv) respect for the views of the child (Article 12).
    1. 2. More than 25 years on from ratifying the Convention in 1994, Japan has inadequately implemented its provisions, even now.


    2.  The total caseload of child abuse in Child Guidance Centers has surpassed 200,000 a year and the number of fatalities from child abuse has been hovering around 50 each year. Tragic stories are also revealed back to back by the media. The annual number of suicides among children had remained around 300, but it rose to a record high of 499 in 2020. School bullying and corporal punishment is not eliminated. Moreover, the child relative poverty rate has been staying high. About half of single parent households, in particular, are actually suffering the condition of living in relative poverty.


    3.  What lies behind the failure to remedy the current situation—despite the legislative measures and other interventions taken to address child abuse, bullying, and child poverty—is the absence of a common perception in Japanese society of respecting children as actors in the enjoyment of rights and measures that are mindful of them being actors in the enjoyment of rights. Although the Committee on the Rights of the Child has been reiterating in its concluding observations on the periodic reports of Japan that the situation needs to be remedied, the Government’s response to the issues still falls short of expectations. Implementation of the Convention by the judicial bodies is desirable, but the Convention is not functioning fully as judicial norm in courts.
    1. 3. Whereas many statutes pertaining to children such as the Juveniles Act, the Child Welfare Act, the Basic Act on Education, and the School Education Act, are in force and have been operating over the years in Japan, not a single statute has ever specified that children are actors in the enjoyment of rights except children’s rights were barely set out for the first time in the amendment to the Child Welfare Act in 2016.
    1. 4. Some government bodies including the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare are involved in children’s rights, and yet a cross-sectoral coordinating body needs to be established in order to coordinate the collaboration across these agencies and implement the measures and policies related to children’s rights with financial resources and the relevant authority. Additionally, while some local governments have appointed ombudsperson units for children, it is required that a committee governing children’s rights be instituted as an independent agency of the national government.
    1. 5. Thus, in order to implement the Convention effectively on a domestic level and remedy the situation of children’s rights, a Basic Act on the Rights of the Child needs to be enacted as the overarching law relevant to children to ensure that the provisions of the Convention will be realized in a modality tailored to Japan.
  2. II. Contents of a Basic Act on the Rights of the Child
    1. 1. The Basic Act on the Rights of the Child must set out that children are actors in the enjoyment of rights, and lay down the four general principles enshrined in the Convention.


    2.  In addition, to realize the rights underpinned by the principles, the Basic Act on the Rights of the Child must assume the following six roles:
      1. (i) Role as domestic law to implement the Convention effectively;
      2. (ii) Facilitating the domestic legislation process as guiding norms of all laws and regulations related to children;
      3. (iii) Role as underlying law to guarantee children’s procedural rights and promote their participation in the proceedings;
      4. (iv) Role as underlying law for the national and local governments to design measures and policies and enhance organizational structures relevant to children;
      5. (v) Role as underlying law to institute a system of remedies for children’s rights violations; and
      6. (vi) Promoting the collaboration and combined efforts between the national and local governments and the NGOs related to children.
    3. 2. Although the basic act presented in the proposal does not set down every right of children provided in the Convention, the other children’s rights not stipulated in the proposed basic act should also be viewed as guiding principles in the planning of laws and other measures and policies related to children’s rights.
  3. III. Closing
    1.  Seeking that respecting children as dignified actors in the enjoyment of rights becomes a common perception in Japanese society, it is urged that a Basic Act on the Rights of the Child be enacted in order that the Convention will function fully as a legal norm not only in the public administrative bodies but in the judicial bodies and take root as the norm of behavior in civil society.


* An English translation of the attached annex to this Proposal, A Proposed Basic Act on the Rights of the Child, is not provided here. The Japanese original is available on the following link:


icon_pdf.gif Proposed Basic Act on the Rights of the Child (PDF;325KB)