Living Together: Minority People and Disadvantaged Groups in Japan
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    Contents of This Chapter
  1. 5-1  WOMEN
    1. 5-1-1  Education
    2. 5-1-2  Marriage
    3. 5-1-3  Childbirth
    4. 5-1-4  Childcare
    5. 5-1-5  Employment
    6. 5-1-6  Politics and Women’s Movements
    7. 5-1-7  Human Rights of Women
  2. 5-2  CHILDREN
    1. 5-2-1  Bullying
    2. 5-2-2  Juvenile Delinquency
    3. 5-2-3  Drug Use
    4. 5-2-4  Child Abuse
    5. 5-2-5  Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
    6. 5-2-6  Chronology: Women and Children

5-1  WOMEN

The rights of women are guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution: “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”  Responding to the 1975 International Women’s Year, the International Women’s Decade (1975-1984), and the 1979 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (signed and ratified in 1981), the rights of women have been discussed and promoted.  The Headquarters for the Planning and Promoting of Policies Relating to Women was established in 1975, which became the Headquarters for the Promotion of Gender Equality in 1994 with the entire Cabinet and the Prime Minister as its President.  In 1996, the Headquarters adopted the new national plan of action, the “Plan for Gender Equality 2000,” and the Council for Gender Equality was established.  In 2000, the government formulated the Basic Plan for Gender Equality based on the 1999 Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society.

Japan signed and ratified the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1981, and submitted a fifth periodic report on Implementation of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2002.  The rights of women have improved, but the U.N. Committee makes several recommendations.  The Committee recommends setting the minimum age for marriage at 18 for both men and women, and allowing married couples to keep their respective surnames separately (U.N. Committee 2003).  The law states that a married couple has to adopt one of their surnames as their common surname.  Almost all couples (97% as of 2000) took the last name of the husband (Naikakufu 2003a).  According to a 2001 survey, more than two thirds (65%) of respondents agreed with the separate last names for married couples (LA Times March 10, 2002).  Furthermore, the Committee recommends 100 days as the minimum period required to avoid confusion about the paternity of children born after re-marriage (U.N. Committee 2003).  The current law requires that a divorced woman wait six months to remarry in order to avoid the confusion of the paternity of children.

5-1-1  Education

The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women mentions the elimination of prejudice based on “stereotyped roles for men and women” (Article 5), and the protection of the equal rights of men and women in education (Article 10).  Article 10 stipulates “the elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education by encouraging coeducation and other types of education which will help to achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and school programmes and the adaptation of teaching methods.” 

In recent years, education has been more cautious about gender stereotyping and has made efforts to provide gender-neutral education in order to wipe out gender-specific discrimination.  Since 1993 and 1994 respectively, female-only home economics classes in middle and high schools have been opened to male students.  Since 1983, gender-free attendance sheets, instead of “boys-first” sheets, have been in widespread use.  The number of female four-year college students, and that of female students in social science and in science and technology have increased in recent years.

Schools still provide gender-specific education such as “boys-first” attendance sheets, and single-sex high schools.  The “boys-first” attendance sheet contains the names of all male students first in an alphabetical order and then the names of all female students.  Thus, male students are always called on first.  All classrooms and schools used “boys-first” attendance sheets before 1983.  The movement began when one elementary school teacher began using a gender-neutral attendance sheet in her classroom.  The 1999 survey of the Japan Teachers’ Union (JTU) found that 43.6 percent of schools used a gender-neutral attendance sheet but that there was a large regional discrepancy.  Some regions have a very low use of the gender-neutral sheets, such as 13.8 percent in Iwate Prefecture (AS Iwate April 15, 2000).  It is easy to change the currently used “boys-first” attendance sheet into a gender-neutral attendance sheet.  Therefore, there is no reason for schools to keep using “boys-first” attendance sheets.  The gender-neutral attendance sheets should be used in all schools. 

Some old public high schools and many private schools have kept single-sex education.  As of 1997, 50.8 percent of private schools and 4.3 percent of public schools are single-sex (Kimura 1999:47).  Private schools have the right to have single-sex schools.  Though many feminists have questioned the existence of public single-sex schools, some studies from the United States have shown that female students in same-sex high schools tend to have higher self-esteem, and higher academic accomplishments in mathematics and science, and are less likely to seek gender-stereotyped jobs and careers (Sadker and Sadker 1994:232).

The most obvious case of gender bias in school was female-only home economics education courses in middle schools and high schools.  Home economics classes had been open only to female students in middle and high schools until 1993 (for middle schools) and 1994 (for high schools).  Schools perpetuated traditional gender-roles of women as homemakers.  Before 1993, male students went to take an “industrial arts” (gijutsu) class while female students studied home economics in middle schools.  Male students learned carpentry from a male teacher, while female students learned sewing, cooking, and child care from a female teacher.  In high schools, home economics classes were required only for female students until 1994.  After the ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the implementation of the Equal Opportunity Employment Act of 1985, the MOE created gender-free home economics for middle and high schools.  Since 1993, both male and female middle school students take industrial arts and home economics classes.  Since 1994, both male and female high school students are required to take home economics classes.  Perhaps home economics will encourage male students to share housekeeping responsibilities in the future. 

Parents and teachers tend to be less aggressive in pushing female students into achieving higher educational goals, because of gender roles.  Most people assume that women do not have to work to support their families once they marry.  According to a 1999 survey of the parents of fourth to ninth graders, the majority of parents (69.3%) want their daughter to be “like girls” and their sons to be “like boys” (Sōmuchō 2000:123-124).  Many parents expect their daughters to have a “woman-friendly” education at a junior college.  Parents expect their sons to attend four-year colleges.  According to a 2000 survey, 66.9 percent of parents of children ages 9-14 expected their son to go to a four-year college, while 44.7 percent of parents expected their daughter to go to a four-year college, and 17 percent of them wanted their daughters to go to a junior college (Naikakufu 2002:104).

The enrollment of female students in four-year colleges has been increasing.  In 1960, only 2.5 percent of female students and 13.7 percent of male students went to four-year colleges, but in 2003, 34.4 percent of female students and 47.8 percent of male students went to four-year colleges.  In 2003, 13.9 percent of female students went to junior colleges (Naikakufu 2004b).

Junior colleges, in which 90 percent of students are female, are regarded as “preparatory schools for becoming good housewives.”  Junior colleges offer courses in home economics, humanities, education, social science, and public health.  Most junior college graduates obtain clerical or sales positions in private companies and work as “Office Ladies” until marriage or childbirth. 

The gender gap in majors at universities and colleges affects the gender discrepancy in employment and wages.  Traditionally, lifelong employment for college-educated women has been restricted to teachers and public servants.  An overwhelming majority of college-bound high school female students choose to major in traditional female fields such as humanities, home economics, and social science rather than science and engineering, partly because of the lack of female role models.  Only 7.5 percent of female students majored in science and engineering in 2000 (Monbushō 2000b).  However, compared to a decade ago, there has been a great increase in female students majoring in social science and engineering. 

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5-1-2  Marriage

The current law sets the minimal age for marriage at 18 for men and at 16 for women.  The average age of first marriage in Japan rose from 26.1 in 1950 to 29.0 in 2001 for men, and from 22.9 in 1950 to 27.2 in 2001 for women (Naikakufu 2003b).  Until the late 1960s, marriage by arrangement (miai) had been more common than marriage for love (69.1% of marriages are marriages by arrangement in 1940-1944), but in 2002, 88.5 percent of marriage was conducted by love (Kokuritsu 2003).  In 1995, the rate of cohabitation was 1.7 percent for both males and females, very low, compared to other countries (Kōseishō 2000b:56).

The number of people 50 years old or older who have never married has been rising.  The number of unmarried males has increased from 1.46 percent in 1950 to 1.70 in 1970, 2.60 in 1980, 5.57 in 1990, and 12.57 in 2000, while the number of unmarried females has risen from 1.35 percent in 1950 to 3.33 in 1970, 4.45 in 1980, 4.33 in 1990 and 5.82 in 2000 (Naikakufu 2003c).  According to a survey of unmarried youths (20-34 years old), the reasons that they are unmarried are because they have not met a person they want to marry (41.5%) and they do not have enough money (30.2%).  Among males who have part-time jobs, the most cited-reason to be unmarried is financial (Naikakufu 2003a).

The rate of divorce was very high in the Tokugawa period (4.8/000) until the Meiji period (1.53 in 1899), but dropped from the end of the Meiji period to World War II (0.70 in 1935).  It shot up immediately after the war, and fell again (0.84 in 1955, 0.79 in 1965).  However, since the 1970s the divorce rate has risen to 1.07 in 1975, 1.39 in 1985, 1.60 in 1995, and until now (Cf., 4.33 in 1996 in the United States) (Ochiai 2000; Abe and Sato 2000).  In 1995, one out of four couples (25%) were divorced (Morinaga 1997:43).  The number of divorces in 2002 has reached 289,838 couples, the largest on record, twice as many as twenty years ago.  The number of divorces for those who had been married for a long time has grown rapidly.  About 80 percent of divorced men and 60 percent of divorced women re-married (AS August 18, 2003).

The average marriage period of divorced couples has become longer, from 5.3 years in 1950 to 6.8 years in 1970 and 10.3 years in 2000 (Yuzawa 2003:200).  Divorces are most frequent within five years of marriage when there are no children or after 20 years of marriage when the children have grown up.  In 1998, husbands requested 28.1 percent of divorces, while wives requested 71.9 percent.  The number of divorces after 20 years or more of marriage has increased from 10,000 in 1980 to 40,000 in 1998 (Tokyo Shinbun October 11, 2001).  The three main reasons for divorces in 2000 were incompatibility (63.2% for men; 46.2% for women), infidelity (19.3% for men; 27.5% for women), violence (5.3%; 30.8%), mental abuse (11.8%; 23.0%), waste of money (13.8%; 17.5%), relations with families and relatives (17.6%; 11.1%), neglect (8.8%; 15.7%), abnormal personality (14.5%; 9.1%), not giving money for living expenses (1.5%; 22.0%), sexual dissatisfaction (11.1%; 6.5%), disagreement about living with parents (10.8%; 3.1%), alcoholism (2.2%; 10.7%), and disease (3.4%; 1.6%)  (Naikakufu 2001:20).

About 90 percent of divorces are conducted through the agreement, while only one percent of divorces are through the courts.  Since the 1952 Supreme Court decision, the petitioner for divorce cannot divorce without the agreement of the spouses, ostensibly to protect the wife.  After the 1980s, lower courts started to recognize some divorce requests.  In 1987, the Supreme Court recognized the request of divorces with some conditions, from those who have responsibility for the divorce.  The separation period as a condition of divorces has been shortened.  The revised opinion brought a five-year separation for divorces.  In recent years, the judges care more about the reality of break-ups than the cause of break-ups.

Among divorces involving children in 1998, in the 79.2 percent of cases, wives were granted custody, while in the 16.5 percent of cases, husbands did, and others took custody in the remaining 4.2 percent of cases.  The non-custodial parent has to pay childcare expenses depending on income.  Parents consult each other and if they cannot decide, they can ask the Family Court for a ruling.  According to a 1997 survey, only 30 percent of divorced mothers received child support, and in the case of regular payment, they receive on average 71,000 yen, 36,000 yen per child.

According to a 1993 survey of mother-child households by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, almost 70 percent never received child-support expenses, and only 14.9 percent receive regular payments (Inubushi et al. 2000:71-74).  According to a 2001 survey of divorces granted by the Tokyo and Osaka family courts, only 49 percent of non-custodial parents regularly pay a child support.  The delinquencies were never brought to court (Yuzawa 2003:206).  The Ministry of Justice plans to fine divorced parents who are in child-support arrears.  If a parent fails to comply, the court could resort to seizing assets, such as a person’s salary for the child support due (AS September 4, 2003). 

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5-1-3  Childbirth

The total fertility rate (live birth rates by age for women ages 15 to 49) was high during the prewar period (4.24 in 1920; 5.11 in 1925; 4.71 in 1930; 4.11 in 1940); however, after the after-war baby boom period (1947-1949) with more than four children per year (e.g., 4.54 in 1947), it has been decreasing (3.65 in 1950; 2.00 in 1960; 2.13 in 1970; 1.75 in 1980; 1.54 in 1990; 1.35 in 2000; 1.29 in 2003), except the second baby boomer period (1971-74).  During the high economic growth period (1955-1973), the total fertility rate had decreased to 2.0 to 2.2, except for 1.57 in 1966.  Almost everybody was married and had two children.  After the first oil shock in 1973, the total fertility rate fell to less than 2.0, to 1.91 in 1975, and to 1.29 in 2003.  In 1989, the fertility rate dropped below 1.57 in 1966, the so-called “1.57 shock.”  The government and the mass media became worried.  In order to maintain the present population, the total fertility rate must be approximately 2.08. 

The recent decline in fertility has been caused by the increasing number of single people and later marriages.  The later marriages have been caused by better education for women, the freer urban lifestyle, and the preference for single life.  Many men are not financially independent enough to marry.  The number of children by married women has not changed much from 2.2 children in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; however, in recent years, the younger generations tend to have fewer children because of later marriages.  The average age of women at first childbirth has risen from 24.7 in 1975 to 29.3 in 2002 (Naikakufu 2004b).  According to a 2002 survey, the number of married couples without children has been 40 percent for those who married for 0-4 years, and 10 percent for those who married for 5-9 years (Kokuritsu 2003). 

According to a 1997 survey, the reasons why women do not have as many children as they want are that “raising a child is costly in general” (37.0%), “educating a child is costly” (33.8%), “they are reluctant to have children at an advanced age” (33.5%), “they can no longer bear the psychological and physical burdens of child care” (20.8%), “there is not enough room in the house (13.4%), “they cannot give birth to children physically” (13.1%), and “it interferes with their work” (12.8%) (Kōseishō 1998:39).  In 2002, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare started the “Plus-One Countermeasure for the Decreasing Number of Children” developed from “New Angel Plan” to suggest the introduction of work-sharing and the promotion of the system of short-time working hours.

Since April 1996, the government of Takano town in Hiroshima Prefecture, with a population of 2,600, 30 percent of which is 65 years old or older, pay 100,000 yen for the first child, 300,000 yen for the second, 700,000 yen for the third and 1,000,000 yen for the fourth and the followings as celebration money.  The condition is that the recipients have to stay in the town for at least one year after the childbirths.  About 840 of 3300 local governments have some kind of celebration money.  Sixteen local governments pay 1,000,000 yen or more for childbirths (Yomiuri 1998:258-259).  Akita Prefecture decided to pay the fees for nursing infants at a day nursery while it has paid the fees for a day nursery for the third and later children after 1991 (AS January 25, 2003).

Soon after the Meiji revolution in 1868, infanticide and abortion became illegal, and the 1940 National Eugenics Law severely punished abortion.  After the war, the 1948 Maternal Protection Law with its 1949 and 1952 revisions legalized abortions if pregnancy or childbirth was physically or economically risky, or if a woman became pregnant because of rape or adultery.  In both cases, the consent of both parents was needed, and the pregnancy had to be 22 weeks or less.  In almost all cases, women sought abortions for economic reasons.  The intrauterine device was approved in 1974.  In 1976, the period to seek an abortion was shortened from the third to the second trimester.  In 1999, the abortion pills were finally approved. 

Condoms and the calculation of fertile and infertile periods are the most common contraception methods.  Therefore, there are many unexpected pregnancies.  The records indicate that the number of abortions declined from 1,170,000 in 1955 at peak to 600,000 in 1980, 460,000 in 1990, and 340,000 in 2001.  The rate of abortions per 1,000 women from 15 to 49 years old has decreased from 22.1/000 in 1975 to 11.8/000 in 2001 (Naikakufu 2003d).  However, the actual number of abortions is much higher than the records indicate. 

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5-1-4  Childcare

The government enacted the 1995 Child Care and Family Care Leave Law, the Five-Year Program on Emergency Measures for Nursery Care (Angel Plan) (1995-1999) and the revised Angel Plan (2000-2004) to provide favorable childbearing and childrearing environments for women.  Measures included offering daycare centers for newborns, extending the hours for daycare service, providing temporary/emergency daycare service, creating infant health daycare services, promoting after-school children’s clubs, and increasing the number of multipurpose daycare centers and local child-rearing centers.  This change in policy came after the government became concerned by the plunging birthrate (1.57 shock/1.57 children per women in her lifetime in 1989, and 1.29 in 2003).  The decreasing number of newborns will reduce the number of future workers, and stagnate national productivity and the economy.  Moreover, future workers will have to bear the burden of supporting social welfare for the rising numbers of the elderly.  Lawmakers have realized that they have to make it easier for women to have more children. 

In 1947, two predecessor unions of the Japan Teachers’ Union won 16-month maternity leave.  However, in practice, many teachers took maternity leave for shorter periods (Nikkyōso 1977).  The 1975 Childcare Leave Law for female public workers guarantees one-year unpaid childcare leave. 

In 1965, the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) started the childcare leave system for about 70,000 female workers, responding to a request of the Japan Telecommunications Workers’ Union.  Those who have a child under two years old can take two years of childcare leave, without salaries, and return to the same position.  Some large private companies with many female workers introduced a childcare leave system (Yokoyama 2002:64-65).  Among private companies with 30 employees or more, 2.3 percent in 1971, 4.3 percent in 1973, 6.3 percent in 1976, 14.3 percent in 1981, and 19.2 percent in 1988 offered childcare leave (Fujii 1993:97).

The 1991 Childcare Leave Law for all female workers in private sector requires employers to provide childcare leave for all employees. It was renamed the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law in 1995, and guarantees that workers, including part-time workers, with a child under one and a half years of age can take childcare leave.  Employers must support employees who raise a child from one to six years old, for example, by shortening working hours before the child goes to elementary school.  During the childcare leave (and family care leave), 40 percent of wages can be provided from employment insurance and social welfare fees are exempted.  In 1999, those who took childcare leave were almost always women (97.6%), and 2.4 percent were men, 0.42 percent of male employees whose spouses had a baby (Nikkei Shinbun April 7, 2001).

The Labor Standard Act and the Health Insurance Scheme guarantee a maternity leave at 60 percent of salary for six weeks before childbirth and eight weeks after childbirth with birth and nursing grant, such as 300,000 yen, and 30 minutes nursing time twice a day for female employee with a baby under one year old.  Also, the revised Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1997 requires employers to protect the health of female workers in pregnancy and after childbirth.

Local governments regulate community-based Angel Plans.  Many local governments provide incentives measures for women to have more children.  For example, the Marugame municipal administration enacted the Marugame Angel Plan (2000-2004) in order to promote 1) health and medical care for pregnant women, newborns, and new mothers; 2) nursery services; 3) community support; and 4) financial support.  The administration waives half of the daycare tuition for the second child, and provides total daycare tuition for the third.

In 1999, there were 5,069 children under the age of six in Marugame City.  Fourteen public daycare centers operate for eight hours a day.  Some of them provide extended childcare service for 10.5 hours a day.  Three private daycare centers operate 11 hours a day.  Private daycare centers take care of infants and provide temporary daycare in case of family emergency.  In addition, there are five unlicensed daycare centers.  There are eight public preschools and two private preschools that do not provide extended childcare service.  Very few newborns (6%), one-fourth (26.2%) of one-year-olds, and one-third (37.7%) of two-year-olds are sent to daycare centers; the rest are cared for at home.  Approximately half of all children between the ages of 3-6 attend preschools while the other half go to daycare centers (Marugame-shi 2000b).

In 2002, 61.4 percent of corporations have childcare leave system, and two thirds (64%) of female workers who gave birth in 2001 took a childcare leave while 0.33 percent of male workers whose spouses gave birth took a childcare leave.  Most (88.7%) female workers who took childcare leave returned to work.  One third (33.1%) of corporations have the childbirth leave system for spouses usually for one to five days with pay, and 61.6% of male workers of corporations with this system took it.  Half of enterprises have the childcare system, such as shorter hours for parents (38.5%).  Furthermore, 10.3 percent of enterprises, including 20.8 percent of corporations with 500 or more employees allow employees to take leave to take care of an ill child (Kōseirōdōshō 2003b).  Employers are obligated to pay special attention for re-employment after childcare leave.

According to a 2001 survey, 67.4 percent of female workers, including 59.5 percent of female full-timers, quit their jobs after the birth of their first child, and 80.2 percent of mothers of full-time employment and 0.7 percent of fathers of full-time employment took childcare leave, even though the law guarantees childcare leave for both fathers and mothers.  According to a 2002 survey, almost half (48.8%) of non-working women in their 20s and two thirds (64.2%) of them in their 30s said they were not working because of childcare, 22.4 percent of those in their 30s said it was because their spouses and child(ren) did not want them to work.  Among women who continued to work, 71.4 percent took childcare leave, according to a 2001 survey (Naikakufu 2003d).  According to a 2003-4 survey, 35.0 percent of mothers of 2-year-olds had a job. The employment rate of women in three-generation households is higher than that of women from other households.  Almost half of mothers (46.7%) who lived with their parents (or -in-laws) worked, while 31.6 percent of mothers who did not live with them worked (Yomiuri December 23, 2004).  Parents of working women who are living in the same house help them to rear children.

Parents can receive a child-rearing allowance and a special child-rearing allowance.  According to the revised 1971 Child-rearing Allowance Law, parents or guardians of children who have not entered fourth grade can receive 5,000 yen per month for the first two children, and 10,000 yen per month for other children.  Since 1982, there has been no nationality requirement.  In addition, the special child-rearing allowance is paid by employers for employees who are ineligible for child-rearing allowance due to higher income limitations.

A child-rearing allowance is also given to low-income single-mother households.  According to a 1998 survey of the National Single Parent, there are about 955,000 households with single mothers, 21 percent more than in 1993.  They became single mother households because of widowhood (about 20%), divorce, and out-of-wedlock births.  The households with divorces amounted to 650,000, an increase from 500,000 in 1993.  The number of out-of-wedlock births also rose 85 percent.  Sixty percent of divorced mothers said they never received childcare expenses (68% in 1993) (AS March 3, 2001).  In 1998, the Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to provide a child-rearing allowance for unmarried mothers, even after the father acknowledged paternity.  Six percent of households who received child-rearing allowance are mothers of out-of-wedlock children.  Only 30 percent of divorced women received childcare allowance from ex-husbands (Sankei Shinbun April 23 1998). 

In 1999, there were 88,000 father-child households (1999) and 448,000 mother-child households were in 1998.  Mother-child households can receive about 42,000 yen (for one child) for child-rearing allowance, and some public supports such as reduced amount of medical expense.  Few of these provisions are available for father-child households.  Father-support family can receive child-rearing allowance and special child support allowance (Nishinihon Shinbun December 8, 2000). 

According to a 1999 survey, it costs 24,000,000 yen to raise a child who goes to private preschool, public elementary, middle and high schools, and private college (Naikakufu 2003a).  According to a 2003 survey of 700 households, they spend 28.4 percent of household expenses for child rearing, and two thirds (65.1%) felt the burden of childcare expenses.  The educational expense for school, tutoring classes and others is 37.7 percent of childcare expenses.  More than 10 percent of childcare expenses came from grandparents (AS October 26, 2003).  In 2001, Japanese fathers spent 0.8 hours a day on child care while working mothers spent 5.6 hours a day (Naikakufu 2003d).

In 2001, 552,000, 16 percent of children younger than three years old, were enrolled in daycare centers, and 1,828,000 pre-school children were in daycare centers (Kōseirōdōshō 2002a).  As of April 1, 2003, there were 26,383 children, 57 percent of whom were 1- to 2-year olds, on waiting lists.  The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to increase the number of daycare centers in order to take all of these children (AS August 20, 2003).  About half of new daycare centers may be private enterprises, and unrecognized daycare centers with excellent conditions are eligible for public subsidies (AS May 21, 2001).

Infants and toddlers can be cared for by daycare homes, baby-sitters, community-based support centers, and mothers’ support groups, though many parents prefer accredited daycare centers.  In the mid-1950s, the local government started a home daycare system (so-called “daycare mama system”) for babies and toddlers, and in 1997 there were 137 local government-operated home daycare systems (Kōseishō 1998).  There are many homemakers or retirees who are interested in obtaining the certificate for officially recognized home daycare centers.  The certification for childcare givers can be granted by completion of correspondence courses.  Many local governments have created “childcare home-helpers” by providing free workshops for baby-sitters and nannies.

Community volunteers provide childcare service in many community centers.  For example, Marugame City has provided a childcare support club for stay-at-home mothers of children who are too young to enter preschool.  Mothers bring their children to the childcare support clubs once a month, and the public health nurse and volunteers from the community check the health of the children and advise the mothers how to take care of them.  However, this support is available only for stay-at-home mothers or guardians, who are available during business hours. 

Daycare centers emphasize childcare services rather than preschool education.  The curriculum follows guidelines from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.  Almost all nursery teachers are female junior college graduates.  Daycare centers have much longer hours than preschools, and provide both a naptime and a snack time.  Daycare centers teach infants to six-year-olds how to eat, dress themselves, and use toilet.  In addition, daycare centers, like preschools or kindergarten (yōchien) provide preschool education for four- to six-year-olds. 

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5-1-5  Employment

The 1997 revision to the 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Act imposes sanctions upon violators, and promotes affirmative action in narrowing the gender gap in employment.  Nevertheless, women have a harder time obtaining jobs, especially during the recession.  Female students have a disadvantage in job recruitment as employers assume that they will quit their jobs at marriage or childbirth, as women did in the past (“statistical discrimination”) (Thurow 1975).  Furthermore, very few companies officially promote affirmative action and set quotas for female employees and managers.   

The majority of women start to work full-time after graduation (73.4% of women working in the 25-29 age group in 2003), quit at marriage or childbirth (60.3% in the 30-34 age group), and return to work part-time after childrearing (72.5% in the 45-49 age group).  In 2003, the average length of work was 9.0 years, compared to 13.5 years for male workers.  Two-thirds (68.4%) of part-time employees were women.  As a result, female workers earned 66.8 percent of the wages of male workers (Kōseirōdōshō 2003b).

According to the 1995 SSM survey, only 22.1 percent of women who were full-time employees before marriage still worked full-time when their youngest child was born, except for workers in agriculture, forestry, family-managed firms, and the self-employed.  Tanaka concludes that the educational attainment of women did not affect the continuity of full-time work, except for schoolteachers (Tanaka 1997:134-139).  In fact, the educational attainment of housewives is often higher than that of women in the workforce because college educated women are more likely to marry men with higher income and do not have to depend on working.  However, four-year college graduates in their 30s are more likely to work full-time than are junior college graduates, high school graduates, and junior high school graduates (Kimura 2000:179-180).

Among wage-earning husbands, their wives younger than 35 years old were housewives (55.2%), full-time workers (20.3%), part-time workers (19.2%) and others (5.3%) in 2001.  The percentage of housewives decreased from 64.2 percent in 1980 to 55.2 percent in 2001 (Naikakufu 2003a).  The households with housewives decreased from 11,140,000 in 1955 to 8,930,000 in 2002, while the households with working wives increased from 6,140,000 in 1955 to 9,390,000 in 2002 (Naikakufu 2003d).

In the United States, a record 59 percent of women who have a baby under one year old had a job in 1998, compared with 31 percent in 1976.  In 1999, full-time female workers in the United States earned 72 percent ($26,300) of the wages of full-time male workers ($36,500).  College educated female full-time workers earned 69 percent ($34,408) of the wage of college educated male workers ($49,982)(LA Times March 15, 2001).

As of 2003, the female labor force (including people 15 years old or older) is 27.32 million, 48.3 percent of the entire female population of 15 years old or older, while the male labor force is 39.34 million, 74.1 percent of the entire male population.  Women 15 and older comprise 41 percent of the total labor force (Kōseirōdōshō 2003b).  Female workers (25,970,000) are self-employed (6.6%), family workers (9.2%), and employees (83.8%), including regular employees (65.1%), temporary employees (16.1%) and daily employees (2.6%), while male workers (37,190,000) are self-employed (13.1%), family workers (1.6%), and employees (84.9%), including regular employees (78.2%), temporary employees (5.3%), and daily employees (1.5%) (Table V-1). 

Table V-1    Labor Forces (2003)   
Workers Total Male Female
Self-employment workers 6,600,000 (10.4%) 4,880,000 (13.1%) 1,720,000 (6.6%)
Family workers 2,960,000 (4.7%) 580,000 (1.6%) 2,380,000 (9.2%)
Employees 53,350,000 (84.5%) 31,580,000 (84.9%) 21,770,000 (83.8%)
     Regular employees 45,980,000 (72.8%) 29,080,000 (78.2%) 16,900,000 (65.1%)
     Temporary employees 6,150,000 (9.7%) 1,970,000 (5.3%) 4,180,000 (16.1%)
     Daily employees 1,220,000 (1.9%) 540,000 (1.5%) 680,000 (2.6%)
Total 63,160,000 37,190,000 25,970,000
(Sōmushō 2005)

Women work in services, wholesales and retail trade, manufacturing and others (Table V-2).  They are clerical workers (28.9%), professional and technical workers (16.0%), protective service and service workers (15.7%), manufacturers, machinery operators and construction workers (13.7%), sales workers (13.1%) and others (Table V-3).  The average regular female worker is 37.9 years old with 8.8 years of working years and earns 238,800-yen per month and 652,600-yen for bonus, while her male counterpart is 41.1 years old with 13.5 years of working years and earns 367,700-yen a month and 1,142,200-yen as bonus (Kōseirōdōshō 2003b).

Table V-2    Labor Forces by Industry in 2003

Industry Total Male Female
Agriculture and forestry 2,660,000 (4.2%) 1,470,000 (4.0%) 1,190,000 (4.6%)
Fisheries 270,000 (0.4%) 200,000 (0.5%) 70,000 (0.3%)
Mining 50,000 (0.1%) 40,000 (0.1%) 10,000 (-)
Construction 6,040,000 (9.6%) 5,150,000 (13.8%) 890,000 (3.4%)
Manufacturing 11,780,000 (18.7%) 7,850,000 (21.1%) 3,940,000 (15.2%)
Electricity, gas, heat supply and water 320,000 (0.5%) 270,000 (0.7%) 50,000 (0.2%)
Information and communications 1,640,000 (2.6%) 1,200,000 (3.2%) 440,000 (1.7%)
Transport 3,320,000 (5.3%) 2,790,000 (7.5%) 530,000 (2.0%)
Wholesale and retail trade 11,330,000 (17.9%) 5,960,000 (16.0%) 5,640,000 (21.7%)
Finance, insurance 1,610,000 (2.5%) 810,000 (3.4%) 800,000 (3.1%)
Real estate 710,000 (1.1%) 440,000 (1.2%) 270,000 (1.0%)
Eating and drinking places, accommodations 3,500,000 (5.5%) 1,420,000 (3.8%) 2,090,000 (8.0%)
Medical, health care and welfare 5,020,000 (7.9%) 1,160,000 (3.1%) 3,860,000 (14.9%)
Education, learning support 2,790,000 (4.4%) 1,320,000 (3.5%) 1,480,000 (5.7%)
Compound services 790,000 (1.3%) 530,000 (1.4%) 260,000 (1.0%)
Other Services 8,450,000 (13.4%) 4,710,000 (12.7%) 3,740,000 (14.4%)
Government 2,270,000 (3.6%) 1,790,000 (4.8%) 470,000 (1.8%)
Total 63,160,000 37,190,000 25,970,000
(Sōmushō 2005)

Table V-3    Labor Forces by Occupation in 2003
Total Male Female
Professional and technical workers 9,060,000 (14.3%) 4,910,000 (13.2%) 4,150,000 (16.0%)
Managers and officials 1,850,000 (2.9%) 1,670,000 (4.5%) 180,000 (0.7%)
Clerical and related workers 12,300,000 (19.5%) 4,810,000 (12.9%) 7,500,000 (28.9%)
Sales workers 9,170,000 (14.5%) 5,760,000 (15.5%) 3,410,000 (13.1%)
Protective service workers and service workers 7,290,000 (11.5%) 3,200,000 (8.6%) 4,090,000 (15.7%)
Agricultural, forestry and fisheries workers 2,890,000 (4.6%) 1,690,000 (4.5%) 1,210,000 (4.7%)
Workers in transport and communications occupations 2,100,000 (3.3%) 2,000,000 (5.4%) 100,000 (0.4%)
Mining workers 40,000 (0.1%) 40,000 (0.1%) -
Manufacturers, machinery operators and construction workers 14,370,000 (22.8%) 10,810,000 (29.7%) 3,560,000 (13.7%)
Laborers 3,530,000 (5.6%) 1,980,000 (5.3%) 1,550,000 (6.0%)
Total 63,160,000 37,190,000 25,970,000
(Sōmushō 2005)

The 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL) stipulates the prohibition of discrimination against female employees in fringe benefits, mandatory retirement, resignation and dismissal, but concerning recruitment, hiring, assignment and promotion, employers have to provide equal opportunity.  In the interest of special protection of women, overtime was limited, and work was restricted for certain categories of female workers. 

The revised Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1997 prohibits discrimination against women in recruitment, hiring, assignment and promotion.  The government may provide advice or support to employers who (will) execute “positive action” or affirmative action to end gender disparities.  The name of employers who violate the law will be released to the public.  Pre- and post-natal workers can take off time for physical examinations and are guaranteed a safe and healthy working environment.  The restrictions on overtime work, holiday work and work from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. by women aged 18 or over have been lifted, but workers can be exempted from night work if they are responsible for raising a young child or caring for a family member.  Employers have to prevent sexual harassment.  Furthermore, the “Basic Plan for Gender Equality” in 2000 promotes affirmative action, based on the 1999 Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society.  The percentage of corporations that have taken affirmative action was 26.3 percent in 2000.  Among them, corporations with more than 5,000 employees are 67.7 percent of those who have already taken affirmative action (U.N. Committee 2002).

The 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Law introduced a dual-track career system: “general employment” (sōgōshoku) for managers, and “clerical employment” (ippanshoku) for people who are not managers.  Many large companies in the commercial and service sectors adopted this system.  Employees in sōgōshoku are in charge of main work, with the promotion to the managers and transfers to another city while employees in ippanshoku are involved in supplementary work and are less likely either to be promoted or transferred.  Sōgōshoku consisted of men and women while ippanshoku were exclusively female.  The companies introduced semi-sōgōshoku, that is, sōgōshoku with regional restrictions, the integrated course without transfers to another city.  In 1995, more than half (52.0%) of large companies with 5,000 or more employees had different management tracks (Tsutsui 2000:23). 

According to a 2000 survey, the number of companies with 300 and more employees with dual-track career system has started to decrease (AERA February 2, 2004).  Recently, the number of female workers in ippanshoku has been decreasing and companies are replacing clerical workers with part-time, contracted, and dispatched workers.  According to the U.N. Women Development Foundation, in 21 developed countries, the number of women in managerial positions is the lowest in Japan, 10 percent; the highest is 46 percent in the United States (Chūgoku Shinbun July 14, 2000).

Many sōgōshoku female workers quit a job because of problems in the workplace or with childcare.  According to a 2000 survey, only 3.5 percent of female workers of companies with 300 or more workers work as sōgōshoku.  One fourth (24.6%) of companies have sōgōshoku and ippanshoku for female workers.  Among those sōgōshoku women, 46 percent have left the job since 1986.  The number of sōgōshoku women increased from 1986 to 1992.  Many companies implemented the integrated course with regional restriction without transfers to another city.  Since 1993, the number of sōgōshoku women has been decreasing.  By February 2000, only 55 percent of sōgōshoku women who had been employed since 1986 to 1994 were still with the company (Yomiuri Osaka June 8, 2000).  According to a 2000 survey, 215 companies with both sōgōshoku and ippanshoku courses, 2.2 percent of sōgōshoku are female.  In 2000, 364 females and 3,021 males were employed as sōgōshoku.  More than half (50.7%) of companies which employed women in two courses (91.2%) did not employ women in sōgōshoku (Nikkei October 29, 2001; AS October 6, 2001).  In 2004, 9.4 percent of division chiefs, 4.6 percent of section chiefs, and 3.1 percent of department chiefs are women (Naikakufu 2004b).

The rate of women’ participation in the labor force according to age formed an M-shaped curve, with the rate for women aged 25 to 29 (73.4%) and 45 to 49 (72.5%) at the peaks and that for women at the child bearing and raising aged 30 to 34 (60.3%) at the bottom.  As a result of a trend towards later marriages and childbirths, the first peak shifted from women who were 20 to 24 years old to those who were 25 to 29.  The bottom of the participation rate rose from 48.2 percent in 1980 to 60.3 percent in 2003 (Naikakufu 2004b).  This curve shows the incompatibility of work and family life in Japan.  The difficulty of balancing the two spheres and the high cost of raising children are often cited as the main reasons for delayed marriage and as a consequence, the sharp decline in the total fertility.

The rate of participation in the labor force for women with children under the age of three is still as low as 28.0 percent (U.N. Human 2002).  According to a survey of women who gave a birth January 10-17, 2001, among those who had been working one year before their first baby, 52.5 percent left their jobs before the birth and had not returned to work, while 23 percent had taken the childbirth and childcare leaves (AS March 23, 2004).  According to a 1997 survey of married women, more than half (51.8%) who did not have children under 18 years old were working, as were one fourth (27.9%) of those whose youngest child was under three, and less than half (45.7%) of those with 3-5 year old, two thirds (65.9%) with a 6-14 year old, and almost three fourths (72.0%) with a 15-17 year old.  The employment rate of wives whose youngest child was under three was 10 percent for full time and 10 percent for part time workers.  On the other hand, among wives who were living with one of both parents, one-fourth work full time (Naikakufu 2002:58-59).  Many married women would prefer to stay home with their children.  According to a 2002 survey, married women work because they want to supplement family finances (Naikakufu 2004b).

Women who graduated in March 2003 and entered the labor force consist of college graduates (44.0%), high school graduates (32.3%) and junior college graduates (22.7%) (Kōseirōdōshō 2003b).  In 2002, female workers (except in agriculture and forestry) were regular workers (50.9%/85.1% for male workers), part-time workers (39.7%/7.9%) and dispatched workers and contract workers (9.5%/7.0%) (Naikakufu 2004b).  Female workers consist of 69.0 percent of part-time workers, 77.8 percent of dispatched workers, and 70.1 percent of at-home workers.  In 2002, the number of female part-time workers increased to 8,350,000, 39.7 percent of 21,040,000 whole female workers.  The wage of female part-time workers on average is 891 yen, 64.9 percent of that of female full-time workers.  The reasons women work part-time are because they can schedule themselves (50.9%), working hours and working days are short (34.2%), and they could not find a company that would hire them as regular workers (20.8%) (Kōseirōdōshō 2003b).

Japanese women accounted for 55.3 percent of the total agricultural labor force in 2003, 16.7 percent in forestry in 2002 and 16.6 percent in the fisheries in 2002 (Naikakufu 2004c).  According to a 1999 survey, 77 percent of women engaged in agriculture received wages and salary, out of which 43 percent receive a fixed monthly salary.  Since the revision of the Farmer’s Pension Fund Law in 1996, women farmers who do not have their own land can be enrolled in the pension scheme (U.N. Human 2002).

According to a 1997 survey of self-employed women (23% self-employed owner, 77% of family employed), 27.7 percent work 8 to 10 hours a day, 21.7 percent work more, and 54.4 percent take a leave once a week, while 39 percent take off once or twice a month.  Concerning the income of self-employed owners, 60 percent earn less than 1,000,000 yen per year (Tomioka and Yoshioka 2001:84-85).  Among those who started a new business, such as retailers and service business, 55 percent are women.  Two-thirds (65.2%) are married and relatively highly educated, and there are more college graduates than female regular workers (Kōseirōdōshō 2002c).

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, employers are required to prevent sexual harassment.  In 2002, the prefectural Labor Office received 7,682 complaints, 5,924 of which came from female workers (Naikakufu 2004b).  The first sexual harassment suit was filed in 1989 by a 31-year-old woman against her supervisor and her company.  She claimed that her supervisor had forced her to have sexual relations, and after she refused, he spread the rumor that she was having an affair, and made her resign from the company, and humiliating her.  She asked for 3 million yen for compensation and 670,000 yen for lawyers.  She won 1.65 million yen in compensation (Yoshimi 1992:252; Iwao 1993:205).

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5-1-6  Politics and Women’s Movements

Right after the end of World War II, women had rights to vote and to be elected to the national assembly.  In the first postwar election in 1946, there were 39 women among the 466 members of the House of Representatives, the highest rate, 8.4 percent so far.  The number of women in the House of Representatives fell to 1 percent to 3 percent until 1996, when the number began to rise again.  On the other hand, the number of women in the House of Councilors has gradually risen from 4 percent in the 1947 election to 17.1 percent in 1998.  As of 2004, there are 7.1 percent women representatives in the House of Representatives and 14.6 percent in the House of Councilors (Naikakufu 2004b; Naikakufu 2004d).

The first female cabinet member was Nakayama Masa, Minister of the Health and Welfare in the Ikeda Cabinet (1960-64).  There were no more women in the cabinet until 1989, when the first Kaifu Cabinet appointed women as head of the Economic Planning Agency and as chief cabinet secretary.  In 1999, Sweden had the highest percentage of women in national politics (42.7%), the United States is fortieth (13.3% in the Congress and 9.0% in the Senate) and Japan is ninety-first (4.6% in the House of Representatives and 17.1% in the House of Councilors) (Gekkan Josei Jōhō 1999/7:91).

In 2004, there were four women governors (8.5%), seven women city mayors (1.0% by the end of 2003), five town mayors, and one village mayor (0.2% of town and village mayors) (Naikakufu 2004d).  The number of female representatives in prefectural and local assemblies reached 7.9 percent by 2003.  The numbers are higher in larger cities, the average of city assembly is 11.9 percent, that of prefectural assemblies 6.9 percent, and that of town and village assemblies 5.6 percent.  The number of female committee members of national councils has increased to 26.8 percent in 2003 (Naikakufu 2004b).

The first female Justice of the Supreme Court was appointed in February 1994 and served until September 1997.  The second was appointed in December 2001. The number of women who passed the National Bar Examination reached to 23.5 percent in 2003, compared with 9.3 percent in 1985.  The number of female judges or public prosecutors has continued to increase.  In 2004, 13.2 percent of all judges (2.1% in 1977), and 8.6 percent of all prosecutors (1.0% in 1977) were women.  More than twelve percent (12.1%) of lawyers were women in 2004, up from 3.1 percent in 1975.  The number of female national public officers (director level and higher) grew to 1.3 percent in 2002.  In 2004, there were three female ambassadors, 1.5 percent of all Japanese ambassadors (Naikakufu 2004d).

After the war, the Housewives’ Association, the National Federation of Regional Women’s Organizations, and the Mothers’ Congress were established for the liberation of women.  The Coordinating Council of Regional Women’s Associations established in 1952 is a federation of regional women’s associations for friendship and mutual assistance, and has approximately 5 million members nationwide. 

In the 1970s, many small feminist groups with liberal and radical ideas were founded, such as the Federation of Women for Abortion and the Pill and the Group of Fighting Women.  Marxist and materialist feminists claimed that housework was unpaid, and that women were oppressed under patriarchal capitalism and gender hierarchy.  In the 1980s, ecological feminism emerged, emphasizing the role of industrialization in sexual discrimination, and in the 1990s, post-modern feminism critiqued violence, sexual harassment and revealed the plight of comfort women.  However, many young women today are not interested in feminism.

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5-1-7  Human Rights of Women

The 2001 Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims was enacted.  The Center for the Consultation and Support for Spousal Violence is attached to the Center for Women Consultation of each prefecture, and provides a temporary shelter, counseling and information for independence.  The police handle the protection of victims, and prevention.  The court can prohibit the victimizer from contacting the victim for up to six months, or order the victimizer to evacuate the residence for two weeks.  If victimizers violate the court order, the court will impose up to one year of imprisonment or a fine of no more than 1 million yen.  The prefectural Center for Women Consultation, Women Protection Facilities (51 in 2003) and Mother and Children Life Support Facilities (284 in 2003) are established for women escaping from domestic violence.  Furthermore, there are private shelters (Naikakufu 2004b). 

According to a 2002 survey, 15.5 percent of women had experienced physical violence from their spouses or partners, 5.6 percent had been threatened, and 9.0 percent had been raped.  One out of five (19.1%) of the women had had at least one of those experiences (Naikakufu 2003d).  In 2003, 133 husbands were arrested for killing their wives, 1,211 for bodily injury, and 230 for battery (Naikakufu 2004b).

The 2000 Law on Proscribing Stalking Behavior and Assisting Victims required the police to warn, restrict and implement administrative measures and criminal punishments against stalkers.  Victims of stalking can receive protection from the police.  In 2003, the police issued 1,169 warnings, and made 185 cases of arrest.  Among the 11,923 cases reported to the police, 90.8 percent of the victims were women and 91.1 percent of stalkers were men (Naikakufu 2004b).

Many poor young women have been sold into prostitution especially under harsh economic times.  In 1946, the police designated areas for prostitution (called redline districts) by drawing red lines on the map.  This did not prevent prostitutes from wandering into other areas.  In April 1958, the Anti-Prostitution Law outlawed legalized prostitution in redline areas.  The Law also provided protection and rehabilitation for prostitutes.  By March 1958, 46,890 had quit prostitution, half of them returned to their home town, 18 percent found work as dancers and waitresses, and 11 percent got married.  Many of them had gone to women’s consulting office in order to change their job (Yoshimi 1992:224-228).  In 1959, the number of arrests for violations of this law peaked at 22,943, but then the number of arrest cases decreased to fewer than 10,000 in 1969, and continued to drop.  However, after 1983 the number rose to more than 10,000 between 1984 and 1988, because of “date clubs” prostitution.  Since 1989, the number of arrests has fallen, but it has become more difficult to find prostitutes (Sōrifu 1997b:1-2).  In addition, many undocumented Asian women have come to Japan to work as prostitutes (See Chapter IV).

Dispatch style prostitution services such as “date clubs” providing “pink bills” in payphone booths and the so-called “Deai-kei” (Meet A Mate) sites on the Internet have become very popular.  Young girls provide “Enjo-Kōsai” (Patronage Dating) exchanging sex for money.  Many girls use “telephone clubs” to find sex partners for money.  Telephone clubs allow women and men to communicate anonymously by phone to negotiate for sex.  If they are caught, the men are usually punished, and the police take the underage girls into protective custody (Ohji 1998:57).  Women can join without fees; therefore, many girls younger than 18 years old use it. 

The 1999 Law for Punishing Acts related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and for Protecting Children imposes stricter punishments on sex offenders and brokers of child prostitutes under 18 years old and on dealers of child pornography.  In 2003, 4,412 youths, including 19 elementary school students, 1,351 middle school students, and 1,882 high school students were taken into custody because of prostitution.  The youths said they prostituted themselves voluntarily (71.4%), because they were curious (12.9%), liked a particular man (21.1%), wanted money (29.0%), and wanted sex (5.5%).  More than a third of the arrested girls said they had tried prostitution because their friends persuaded them (26.0%) (Naikakufu 2004e).  In 2003, among 1,731 arrests of charges of child prostitution, 791 cases were found through the Internet, and 212 were through telephone clubs (Naikakufu 2004b).

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The Japanese public is greatly concerned with the protection of children.  Teachers, parents, and the community have struggled to solve the problems of bullying, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, child abuse, prostitution, and pornography.  In April 1994, Japan became the 158th country to ratify the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Rights of the Child regards a child as an independent individual with human rights, not as an underage child who needs adult protection.  A child is defined as “any person under the age of eighteen years,” but Japan reserves paragraph (c) because Japan regards a child as anyone under 20 years old. 

In 2004, the U.N. Committee of the Rights of the Child recommended raising the age of marriage for women from 16 to 18 years old and revising inheritance law and family registry to give out-of-wedlock children equal rights (U.N. Committee 2004).  The description of the birth report of out-of-wedlock children in the registry became as same as that of children of married couples since November 2004.  The number of out-of-wedlock children increased to more than 21,600 (1.9% of all births) in 2002 from 13,000 (1.1%) in 1990 (Hokkaidō Shinbun March 28, 2004).

The rights of the child have attracted much attention within the human rights movement.  After the reorganization of the cabinet in January 2001, the Committee for the Promotion of Youth Policy under the Cabinet Office became responsible for all matters pertaining to young people. 

In 1994, “volunteers for children’s rights protection” and the “Children’s Rights Dial 110” telephone lines were established at regional and district legal affairs bureaus across the country.  The volunteers for children’s rights protection were experienced in human rights protection and entrusted with problems like bullying, juvenile delinquency, and child abuse.  They provide counseling and guidance by telephone, at homes and in the guidance room of the regional legal affairs bureaus and the district legal affairs bureaus.  They are also responsible for generating public awareness for the rights of the child.  They work with schools, child guidance centers, communities, parent-teacher associations, and welfare volunteers.

In 1998, Kawanishi City of Hyōgo Prefecture established the first independent human rights ombudsman system.  For children under 18 years old, three to five ombudsmen are commissioned by the board of education.  Investigators can issue warnings and release the names of offenders (AS November 30, 1998).

5-2-1  Bullying

Bullying (ijime) has always been a fact of life, both among children and among adults.  The MOE defines bullying as a physical or psychological attack against weaker one(s), which brings deep suffering to the victim(s) (Hōmushō 1994:3).  School bullying began to receive attention after the sensational media coverage of a series of suicides related to bullying in the mid-1980s.  One 13-year-old committed suicide, leaving a note describing how he had been repeatedly bullied by several boys at his middle school.  He had been beaten, threatened with death, and was forced to perform humiliating acts.  Before his suicide, he even received a sympathy card signed by his classmates and four teachers, including his homeroom teacher, after they staged a mock funeral for him in the classroom (AS February 3 1986; AS February 6 1986).   

Since 1985, the MOE has collected data on bullying cases that teachers referred to the board of education.  Not all teachers report all bullies, so the MOE’s figures underestimate the incidence of bullying.  In the 2002-3 school year, 39,000 cases of bullying were reported in public elementary, middle, and high schools (Naikakufu 2004e).  The number of cases peaks among fifth- to ninth-graders, and then decreases among high school students. 

Morita categorizes four roles in bullying: victims, victimizers, the audience, and bystanders.  Several children, the “victimizers,” bully a child, the “victim,” and the rest of children are the “audience” who cheers for the bullying, and the “bystanders” who allow bullying without intervening (Morita and Kiyonaga 1994:48-52).  According to the 1996 and 1997 surveys, more than half of middle school students said they did nothing about bullying (Sōmuchō 1999:15-19).  Unfortunately, the majority of children are afraid of being bullied if they intervene, or because they do not care about the victims.  Morita points out the characteristics of bullying in Japan: 1) bullies are invisible to teachers and others; 2) victims can become victimizers, and vice versa; 3) anybody can be a victim; 4) there are many unidentified victimizers and a small number of particular victims; 5) very few children try to stop bullying; and 6) the bullies often exhibit other types of inappropriate behavior (Morita and Kiyonaga 1994:21-28).  In many cases, bullying occurs among classmates and members of extracurricular clubs. 

Bullying is more often psychological than physical.  The types of bullying include teasing (31.6%); verbal insults (17.9%); physical violence (14.9%); ostracism (14.2%); theft (7.6%); shunning (5.2%); blackmail (2.2%); harassment (1.3%); and other forms (5.1%), according to the reports filed by teachers in the 2002-2003 school year (Naikakufu 2004e).

According to the 1997 survey of fifth to ninth graders (N=6,906), 13.9 percent of them had been bullied, and 17 percent of them had bullied someone else between September and December of 1996 (Morita et al. 1999:19).  The types of bullying reported by bullied students include slanders and teasing (88.3% of elementary school students and 85.2% of middle school students); being ignored/ostracized (60% and 54.2%); hitting, kicking, and threatening (39.8% and 33.3%); malicious rumors and graffiti (31.8% and 34.6%); and the extortion of money or the destruction of belongings (16.7% and 17.7%).  Eighty percent of victims had been bullied by a group, and 60 percent of them said they had been bullied for a week or more.  Bullying occurred in classrooms (74.9%); corridors and stairs at school (29.7%); in clubs (29.7%); on school grounds (12.3%); in the gymnasium (9.7%); at the school entrance (7.6%); in bathrooms (5.4%); in schoolyards (2.2%); and outside of school (19.0%).  Among those who were bullied outside of school, bullying occurred during their commutes between school and home (46%); at home or at a friend’s house (21.4%); in juku (cram schools) (13.9%); in the neighborhood (10.3%); in community clubs (7.9%) and other places (20.1%) (Morita et al. 1999:36, 41-44).

Table V-4    Types of Bullying Cases in the 2002-3 School Year

Types Elementary School (%) Middle School (%) High School (%)
Verbal insults 16.3% 18.3% 19.6%
Being ridiculed 30.1% 32.8% 28.4%
Having belongings hidden 8.1% 7.7% 5.6%
Being ostracized 19.1% 12.9% 8.8%
Being ignored by a group 5.7% 5.2% 3.6%
Physical violence 13.7% 14.7% 19.3%
Blackmails 1.4% 2.1% 5.4%
Forced intrusive friendliness 1.3% 1.2% 1.4%
Others 4.3% 5.1% 7.9%
(Source: Naikakufu 2004e)

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5-2-2  Juvenile Delinquency

According to the Juvenile Law, juvenile status refers to youths under 20 years of age.  Juvenile delinquency includes: 1) criminal acts by juveniles aged 14 or over; 2) illegal acts by juveniles under 14 years of age; and 3) pre-delinquency by juveniles, such as runaways.  Responding to the recent increase of teenage murderers, the revised Juvenile Law in April 2001 lowered the minimum age for criminal punishments from 16 to 14.  The Criminal Law does not punish illegal acts by those 13 years of age and younger.  These cases are handled by the Child Welfare Law and may be referred to the children’s shelters or the home for juvenile training and education.

Three Family Court judges hear cases that involve youthful offenders.  In the case of a serious or particularly violent crime like murder, the Family Court allows prosecutors to attend court sessions.  If there is any dissatisfaction with the decisions of the Family Court, the prosecutors can appeal.  If the defendant is 16 years of age or older, and commits an offense punishable by the death penalty, by penal servitude, or by imprisonment, his or her case is referred to the Prosecutor’s Office.

In 2003, 175,000 juveniles were arrested or were taken into protective custody by the police.  Among these, 144,000 juveniles, 17.5 per 1,000 youths between the ages of 14 and 19, were in protective custody for criminal offenses.  That total comprised high school students (43.4%), middle school students (26.4%), unemployed (13.8%), employed (9.1%), college students (3.9%), and others (3.4%).  Almost one-fourth (24.1%) were girls. 

Their offenses included larceny (56.4%), embezzlement (26.7%), assault (5.6%), extortion (2.8%), homicide, robbery, arson, and rape (1.5%), and others (6.9%).  Almost 1,800 were arrested for robbery, and 80 were arrested for homicide.  Nearly half of the larceny arrests were for shoplifting, and the rest were theft of motorcycles and bicycles.  In 2003, 2,684 members of motorcycle gangs (bōsōzoku) were taken into custody on criminal charges.  The police also took 1,299,000 people under the age of 20 years old into custody for misdemeanors such as drinking, smoking, and running away.  In addition, 22,615 runaways, 41.2 percent of whom were middle school students, were placed into protective custody (Naikakufu 2004e).

Educators, journalists, professionals, scholars, and policy-makers have become greatly concerned with the rise in juvenile crime.  Many critics claim that children are spoiled and undisciplined, and they turn to violence out of stress and frustration.  According to the report of the Deliberative Committee on Youth Delinquency, troubled youths have no self-control or respect for rules.  According to the Committee, the causes of delinquency are chronic discipline problems, the inability of schools to respond to a diverse student population, and the younger offender’s lack of consideration for others. 

In the 2001-2 school year, there were 33,129 cases of violence in public schools, a decrease of more than 9.4 percent from the record high of 36,577 cases in the 1999-2000 school year.  School violence included fights among students (47.2%); vandalism (36.1%); attacks upon teachers (16.0%); and attacks against people outside of the school (0.7%).  School violence took place mainly in middle schools (77.8%), but also in high schools (17.8%) and elementary schools (4.4%).  In addition, 5,101 cases of violent crimes were committed by students outside of school (Monbukagakushō 2002).

Because middle school education is compulsory, students are rarely expelled.  However, in the 1999-2000 school year, 84 middle school students were prohibited from attending classes for between 3 and 20 days because of violent behavior in school.  Thirty-five of these students had assaulted a teacher (AS December 15, 2000). 

High schools, on the other hand, have the authority to suspend or expel students who violate school laws.  In the past, groups of students were responsible for school violence, but now, single students perpetrate many cases of school violence.  The MOE plans to expand the number of school counselors to work with these students.  In 2003, 716 cases of school violence were reported to the police, and 1,019 students, mostly from middle school, were arrested (Naikakufu 2004e).

In 2003, 1,154 cases of domestic violence caused by juveniles were reported to the police.  The violence was directed against mothers (51.6%), furniture and other property (15.5%), fathers (13.4%), relatives in the household (11.5%), siblings (5.5%) and others (2.5%)(Naikakufu 2004e).

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5-2-3  Drug Use

Drug charges include the possession of stimulants (kakuseizai), marijuana, and paint thinner.  The arrests for possession of stimulant drugs peaked in 1954 (more than 55,000 arrests) because of the prevalence of stimulant drug addicts.  Due to strict regulation and arrests, the number of arrests fell to fewer than 1,000 in the late 1950s and the 1960s.  The arrests peaked again in the 1980s (to more than 20,000), and then again to almost 20,000 in 2000 because of drug sales by the yakuza.  In 2000 there were 16,771 arrests, including 6,738 mobsters and 932 foreigners (Hōmushō 2003:29-40).

In 2003, 16 middle school students and 36 high school students were among the 524 youths who were taken into protective custody for possession of stimulant drugs.  The most popular of these substances is paint thinner.  In 2003, 2,835 youths including 291 middle school students and 463 high school students were charged with possession of paint thinner, and 185 youths (including three middle school students and 38 high school students) were charged with possession of marijuana (Naikakufu 2004e).  The government and the police provide special counseling for drug abusers, support anti-drug programs in the community and schools, and promote anti-drug campaigns through pamphlets, television, radio and other media.

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5-2-4  Child Abuse

Child abuse, usually hidden within the home, is not usually discovered until the victim is finally brought to an emergency room with life-threatening injuries inflicted by one or both parents.  Child abuse affects the life of the child.  According to a 2000 survey, 50 percent of children in the reform schools had endured child abuse (Nihon Bengoshi 2002:271).  Since the 1990s, the Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Osaka and the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Tokyo have provided a counseling hot line. 

The 2000 Law for the Prevention of Child Abuse defines child abuse as physical violence, lewd behaviors, negligence, and psychological damages by parents and guardians of a child against that child.  Teachers, doctors, public health nurses, lawyers and other related persons are trained to recognize child abuse cases in the early stage, and are obliged to report any suspected cases to the child guidance centers and/or related facilities.  Abusers must undergo counseling from social welfare consultants.  The child guidance centers can restrict contact between the parents and the child against the parents’ wishes.  The Law made it easier for officials and the police to break into the house when they have a suspicion that a child is in danger. 

But the after-care system of parents and foster parents system need improvement.  The child guidance center has a chief child counselor, a child welfare officer and a psychoanalyst in charge of providing temporary care.  The central child guidance center in each prefecture has temporary protection facilities, and some have 24-hour telephone consultation services.  Consultants and officials in the child guidance centers have the right to investigate homes and ask the police for help.  Since 2002, volunteer consultants, including retired child welfare officials, teachers, and preschool caregivers visit the family with child abuse problems in order to help the child welfare consultants.

In 2002, the child guidance centers received 23,738 requests for consultation regarding physical abuse (46.1%), protection neglect (37.7%), psychological abuse (12.8%), and sexual abuse (3.5%).  The abused children were up to 3 years old (20.8%), 3-6 years old (29.2%), elementary school children (35.3%), middle school students (10.5%), and high school students and other youths (4.2%).  In 2003, the police received 1,276 reports of child abuse, and arrested 183 persons.  Among 166 abused children, 42 had been killed (Naikakufu 2004e).   Many abused children are cared for in small group homes for children.  The number of small homes for children has been increasing.  One group home is in a residential area where six children from 5 to 16 years old live with two female and one male staff members who take turns spending the night (AS March 4, 2004).

The foster-parents system is not at all widespread or popular.  By 2003, among 7,000 registered foster parents, approximately 1,800 took care of children (AS March 4, 2004).  More than 90 percent of children who need daily childcare are placed in the residential childcare facilities, while only six percent are in foster care.  The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare established a system of professional foster parents in 2001, starting with 100 foster parents for children of 10 years old or younger who have suffered child abuse.  Professional foster parents, such as workers in the Child Welfare Center and pediatricians, have experience in child welfare and/or education or have been foster parents.  The foster care period is about two years.  In addition, since 2002, the Ministry has had the program of the “foster system by relatives,” and regards grandparents, uncles and aunts of abused children as foster parents, giving them an allowance of 60,000 yen per month (AS January 5, 2001; AS September 16, 2001; AS March 29, 2002).

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5-2-5  Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Prostitution has been illegal since the implementation of the Prostitution Prevention Law in 1958.  Under the Penal Code, anyone who performs a sexual act or commits an indecent act with a male or female person less than 13 years of age is subject to punishment, whether or not the act is accompanied by violence or threats.  The Child Welfare Law also prohibits the solicitation of a person less than 18 years of age to engage in obscene acts.  The law also prescribes punishment for keeping a child in custody for the purpose of making him/her engage in harmful activities.  Until the 1999 Law for Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and for Protecting Children, if a man had consensual sex with a girl of 13 years old or older, he would not be punished, unless the girl pressed charges.  However, since the 1970s, prefectural governments have made their own regulations, which allow law enforcement to punish men who bought the sexual services of a girl under 18 years old.

The 1999 Law for Punishing Acts related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and for Protecting Children imposes stricter punishments on sex offenders and brokers of child prostitutes and on dealers of child pornography.  Those who bought the services from child prostitutes would face imprisonment for no more than three years, or a fine of up to one million yen, while the brokers of child prostitution would face sentences of up to three years or a fine of up to three million yen (in the case of professional brokers, five-year imprisonment or a fine of five million yen or less).  In 2003, 1,617 youths became victims under the 1999 Law.  Among them, 722 youths became victims through so-called “Deai-kei” (Meet A Mate) sites on the Internet (Naikakufu 2004e). 

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5-2-6  Chronology: Women and Children

1937     Mother-Child Protection Law.

1946    Women’s suffrage.

1948    Eugenic Protection Act.

1956    Anti-Prostitution Law.

1975    The International Women’s Decade (1975-1984).

1979    The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (signed and ratified in 1981).

1985    The Equal Employment Opportunity Law.

1991     Child Care Leave Law for all female workers in private sectors.

1993    Law Concerning the Improvement of Employment Management, etc. of Part-time Workers (Part-time Work Law).

1995-2004    Angel Plan.  The Five-Year Program on Emergency Measures for Nursery Care (Angel Plan) (1994-1999) and the revised Angel Plan (2000-2004).

1995    Child Care and Family Care Leave Law. 

1996    Mother’s Body Protection Law (revision of the Eugenic Protection Act). 

1999    The Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society.  The Law for Punishing Acts related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and for Protecting Children.

2000    The Law on Prohibition of Stalking Behavior and Assisting Victims. The Child Abuse Prevention Law.

2001    Law on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims.

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The human rights of women have been promoted and improved through the Headquarters for the Promotion of Gender Equality as well as the 1999 Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society, since Japan signed the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  School education has promoted gender-neutral education by opening female-only home economics classes in middle and high schools to male students and by introducing gender-free attendance sheets.  The gender gap in the enrollment of four-year college students, especially in social science and engineering, has been narrowing. 

The majority of women start to work full-time after graduation, quit their jobs at marriage or childbirth, and return to work as part-time workers after childrearing.  In 2003, the average length of work was 9.0 years.  Two-thirds of part-time employees were women.  As a result, female workers earned 66.8 percent of the wages of male workers (Kōseirōdōshō 2003b). 

In order to close the gender gap in employment, the 1995 Child Care and Family Care Leave Law, the Five-Year Program on Emergency Measures for Nursery Care (Angel Plan) (1995-1999) and the revised Angel Plan (2000-2004) have improved the childbearing and childrearing environments for women, especially working mothers.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Law prohibits discrimination against women in recruitment, hiring, assignment and promotion, imposes sanctions upon violators, and promotes affirmative action.

The human rights problems of the child are serious human rights problems in Japan.  Schools, parents, local welfare volunteers, local communities and child guidance centers have worked together to solve them.

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