<COVID-19>Statement Calling for Preventing Escalation of Domestic Harm (Domestic Violence/Abuse) Associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic
The global pandemic of COVID-19 is expanding day by day, with Japan being no exception. The State of Emergency declaration on April 7, 2020, which had originally only applied to seven prefectures, was later extended on April 16 to cover the rest of the country.
One concern that may arise as a consequence of the stay-at-home request and the slumping economy is the escalation of domestic violence (DV) and domestic abuse. Under these circumstances, the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres issued a statement on April 5 alerting people to the surge in DV (link to the statement). The rise and worsening of DV and child abuse have in fact been reported in multiple countries across the world, where respective governments have introduced various countermeasures. For example, in France they announced the opening of additional shelters in Paris and the minister in charge issued a statement expressing her intent to work hard to support victims. Another example is in Australia, where the Government announced additional funding of AU$150 million (US$100 million) for DV response.
Japan experienced the same phenomenon in the wake of two major disasters, namely the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake. Results of the investigations carried out by the Gender Equality Bureau of the Cabinet Office, etc. revealed that cases of DV and other domestic abuse increased and escalated, developing into a more serious issue in the times of these disasters. This has prompted concern that the same issue may arise during the period of the ongoing state of emergency. Although the Government has drawn up response measures focusing on DV counseling and protection of victims, there are still many challenges to address including; setting up more shelters, securing financial resources to implement support and services for DV victims, providing necessary temporary protection promptly and securing shelters even with a stay-at-home request being issued, looking more intently into DV cases to grasp the reality of the harm, ensuring COVID-19 transmission prevention at shelters, and the post-relocation livelihood support.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) is contributing to these efforts by launching “Legal Counseling Services Related to COVID-19 Outbreak” on April 20, 2020 to provide consultation pertaining to DV and other domestic abuse suffered under the COVID-19 pandemic, for which people can apply through a specific phone number or online.
The JFBA is committed to addressing issues of DV and abuse as we continue to closely monitor the Government’s activities.
April 17, 2020
Japan Federation of Bar Associations