The Act

On the 9th of December, 2016, at an extraordinary session of the Diet, the Japanese government adopted The Act on the Promotion of the Elimination of Buraku Discrimination. Essential points are these: 1. To realize a society free from Buraku discrimination, policy-making is a responsibility of the State and local governments. 2. To bring about these policies, the understanding of nationals is essential. 3. The State must construct policies for the elimination of Buraku discrimination, and must contribute information and provide directions to local governments. 4. The State and local governments must improve consultative systems for victims. 5. The State and local governments should practice education and enlightenment for the elimination of Buraku discrimination. 6. The State must research Buraku throughout the country.

This act had two fatal demerits. First, it lacked a budgetary policy. To construct a workable system for a government project, the government ordinarily refers to the budgetary approach during a session of the Diet. In December, the Ministry of Finance showed the coordinative draft version of state budget bill allocations against integrated budgets by all ministries. For new and extraordinary acts, however, the Diet does not consider the national budget. Without real financing, therefore, the act was a theoretical exercise. It was lip service.

The second demerit is that discriminatory speech and action against Burakumin was not subject to punishment. As discrimination ultimately hurts human emotions, a penalty is not the best solution. On the other hand, an act having no punishment whatsoever is nothing more than a non-binding target. Nor was there any remedy clause for victims. Discriminative behavior always produces victims. According to this act, victims may consult with local governments. But this may be of small consolation to the young man who, denied marriage, commit suicide. Even in such cases, no one is at fault, under this act.

A website of the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry clearly insists against (anti-burakumin) background check on employment applicants. Japanese law, however, does not prohibit such checks. The law only prohibits divulgation of information gleaned through background checks. Recently, background checks are a big businesses of detective agencies. One investigation costs from 200,000 to 300,000 yen. And business is good. From 2,348 detective agencies in 1994, there were 5,670 in 2013. The industry may be guessed to be valued at 600 billion yen. To confront such incentives, an act would require teeth. But this act is toothless.

With the notable exception of its Hiroshima branch, the BLL did not complain about this act. This silence perplexed liberals, as the BLL consistently insists on legislative advocacy based on The Paris Principle of the Status of National Human Rights Institutions, which the U.N. Human Rights Commission adopted in 1992. Not only the BLL, but also the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute (BLHRRI), a scientific organization, and the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), likewise supported the act, co-sponsored by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), New Komeito, and the Democratic Party. Only the Japanese Communist Party opposed it.

Organizations and individuals associating with the BLL welcomed the act, and praised the LDP Secretary-General. Hitoshi Okuda [2017: 8], a trustee of the BLHRRI, was especially obnoxious. “On the background of enacting The Act on the Promotion of the Elimination of Buraku Discrimination, needless to say, Mr. Toshihiro Nikai played a great role.” Certainly, Mr. Nikai played a role in enacting that act. His true aim, however, was the 2020 Olympics. The IOC, in 2014, added an anti-discrimination clause in the Host City Contract. In response, the government had already enacted new acts, such as The Act on the Promotion of Efforts to Eliminate Unfair Discriminatory Speech and Behavior against Persons Originating from Outside Japan. Which also had no penalty. During the Olympic Games, politicians considered, hate speeches against North or South Korea, or China, would be a shame before the world. It would also be regrettably shameful if anti-buraku discrimination came to the world’s hearing.

The United Nations has criticized the inadequacy of the Japanese government on domestic human rights such as human trafficking, racism, gender-based discrimination, ethnic problems, children's rights, discrimination against people experiencing disability, and Buraku discrimination. The government habitually refutes and ignores the U.N. Accordingly, the correct role of the BLL, BLHRRI and IMADR, would be to criticize the government - not to become its accomplice. Yes, mass movements are inherently political. Yes, there is space to give compromise for progress. Even so, they ought to remain critical. There are few things more disgusting than scholars who snuggle up to power.

Page Top