<COVID-19>Statement Calling for Building a Society without Discrimination in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Today, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, there have been reports where people infected by COVID-19 are driven away from society. Prejudice and discrimination have manifested in an array of incidents including: slandering and labelling people infected by COVID-19, healthcare workers, and others on social media; accusing schools and other facilities where infection was identified; healthcare workers’ children getting denied access to schools and daycare facilities; throwing stones at homes of people infected by COVID-19; expelling cars with another prefecture’s license plate or drivers of long-distance commercial vehicles; and invading the privacy of those infected by COVID-19 as well as actions and comments provoking prejudice and discrimination.
Under the Constitution of Japan—which upholds fundamental human rights as a basic principle, and guarantees individual dignity, freedom, and personality rights (Article 13), as well as equality under the law (Article 14)—such prejudice and discrimination must not be tolerated because such prejudice and discrimination not only compromise the personality and dignity of people infected by COVID-19 and their families, but also cause devastating impacts on their daily lives.
In this regard, we are reminded of the prejudice and discrimination attached to Hansen's disease (leprosy). The “Act on the Prevention of Infectious Diseases and Medical Care for Patients with Infectious Disease” stipulates that lessons should be learned from the prejudice and discrimination towards people suffering from leprosy or other infections (Preamble), and that one must give due regard so as not to infringe on the human rights of patients with infectious diseases and other persons placed in similar circumstances. (Article 4).
Despite the differences in pathological characteristics, COVID-19 and Hansen’s disease (leprosy) have in common the issue of prejudice and discrimination associated with infections, which necessitates us reiterating the need of the general recognition across society that an individual must never suffer degradation of his or her dignity and be subjected to prejudice and discrimination on account of having an infectious disease (Refer to: Proposal of General Outline of Draft Law on Patient Rights, Japan Federation of Bar Associations, Sep. 14, 2012, and the Final Report of the Verification Committee Concerning Hansen's Disease Problem, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 2005).
Therefore, we urge the Government and municipalities to provide necessary and accurate information and be accountable in the context of COVID-19, as well as to undertake, proactively and continuously, awareness campaigns and education programs to prevent prejudice, discrimination, and violation of human rights.
Additionally, when facing actual prejudice and discrimination, legal professionals—including attorneys, among others—have a duty to put the situation right using any legal remedies possible including legal consultation, thereby contributing to building a civil society where no prejudice or discrimination exists.
Seeing the prejudice, discrimination, and violation of human rights associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are committed to making every effort toward building a society that does not create any prejudice or discrimination.
July 29, 2020
Japan Federation of Bar Associations