Part Two: Report by Article
1. Study on Amendment to Civil Code
The Legislative Council, an advisory organ to the Minister of Justice, as a result of its review of the provisions of the Civil Code pertaining to marriage etc. since January 1991, submitted an "Outline of a Bill to Revise a Part of the Civil Code" to the Minister in February 1996. Of the revisions mentioned in the outline, those pertaining to gender equality are listed below.
Public opinion on these proposed revisions is divided. According to the results of a "public opinion poll on the Family Law" conducted by the Prime Minister's Office in June 1996, it is still difficult to conclude that amendments to the Civil Code gains majority support, and thus the trend of public opinion is currently under a close watch. However, as regards the below item iii) Surnames of Married Couples, according to the results of a "public opinion poll on the introduction of a system to allow married couples to assume separate surnames" conducted by the Cabinet Office in May 2001, the proportion of people who support the introduction of the system exceeds that of people who oppose it, indicating that public understanding about the system is growing. Meanwhile, the Specialist Committee on Basic Issues under the Council for Gender Equality compiled an interim report on the issue, in which the committee expressed its hope for the introduction of the system. Therefore, with regard to this issue, efforts are being made toward introducing the new system.
i) Minimum Age for Marriage
The current law sets the minimum age for marriage at 18 for men and at 16 for women. The Outline calls for setting the minimum age at 18 for both men and women.
ii) Period Required for Women to Remarry After Divorce or Cancellation of Former Marriage
The current law requires six months. The Outline calls for setting such a period at 100days, the minimum period required to avoid confusion about the paternity of children born after the re-marriage.
iii) Surnames of Married Couples
The current law states that a married couple has to adopt either one of their surnames as their common surname. The Outline calls for allowing married couples to assume their respective surnames separately as well as either one of their surnames as a common surname by their choice at the time of marriage.
2. Domestic Violence
(1) Current Legal System
Violence and sexual abuse, even if committed within a family, are not immune from application of penal provisions such as criminal homicide, causing death through bodily injury, bodily injury, battery, false arrest and imprisonment, indecent assault and rape, and these penal provisions have been appropriately enforced. In addition, as regards violence among spouses, penal provisions for a protection order violation are established in the "Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims" (Article 29: individuals who violate a protection order shall be subjected to imprisonment with labour of up to one year or a fine of no more than ¥1 million).
Moreover, the Child Abuse Prevention Law (Law No. 82 of 2000) promulgated on 24 May 2000 clarifies the definition of "child abuse" and stipulates that "in disciplining a child, a person who exercises parental authority shall care for its appropriate exercise."
(2) Violence Among Spouses
During 2000, the number of arrest cases of husbands who exercised violence against wives was 134 for homicide, 838 for bodily injury and 124 for battery. The total of these numbers was 1,096, showing a great increase from the previous year's 516, which indicates that the number of cases almost doubled.
b) Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims
The Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims was enacted in April 2001. This is the first law in Japan that stipulates overall provisions on the issues of spousal violence. It stipulates the function of Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Centers that provide victims with consultations, counseling, temporary protection and various information. The Law also has provision on protection orders to be issued by the court against the perpetrator on the petition of the victims. Two types of protection orders can be provided: the "Order to Prohibit Approach," which prohibits the spouse from approaching the victim for a six-month period; and the "Order to Vacate" which requires the spouse to vacate the domicile that the spouse shares as the main home with the victim for a two-week period. Individuals who violate these protection orders shall be subject to imprisonment with labour of up to one year or a fine of not more than ¥1 million. This is a new system in that the court's orders issued in response to requests from private individuals are secured by penal provisions, which had not been adopted in Japan.
Other stipulations include:
i) notification, etc. by those who detect cases of spousal violence;
ii) training and education among relevant officials;
iii) education and enlightenment;
iv) promotion of study and research; and
v) support to private bodies.
c) Action to Eliminate Violence
The Government has been promoting a wide range of measures regarding violence against women including violence inflicted by their husbands or partners, based on the "Basic Plan for Gender Equality." The Council for Gender Equality in the Cabinet Office made considerations toward the smooth enforcement of the "Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims," and expressed its opinions to concerned Ministries and Agencies in October 2001 and April 2002. Concerned Ministries and Agencies are promoting various measures based on these opinions.
Principal measures taken by the Cabinet Office are as follows:
i) implementation of training and creation of training materials for relevant officials;
ii) implementation of "Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women" and holding symposiums as a part of this Action;
iii) creation of publicity videos and promotion of education and enlightenment activities through various media including newspapers and televisions; and
iv) implementation of a survey into the actual situation of spousal violence.
The Cabinet Offices has also launched "Information on Assistance in Incidents of Spousal Violence," which gathers information on concerned organizations dealing with victims of spousal violence and provides the information to concerned officials through the internet and other channels. It aims at helping officials dealing with spousal violence to acquire necessary information and facilitate cooperation among concerned organizations.
d) Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Centers
Of the consultations with people who visited the Women's Counseling Offices (47 offices throughout the nation) and Women's Consultants in FY2000, "violence by husband or partner" accounted for 9,176 cases or approximately 17% of consulted cases, and ranks first among major complaints. The protection of victims of spousal violence has been implemented under the framework of activities for the protection of women by the Women's Counseling Offices, Women's Consultants, Women's Protection Facilities and other. However, the Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims has established the stipulation for temporary protection referral, which include the Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Centers established by prefectural governments and private shelters as the destination for referrals.
The Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Centers (Women's Counseling Offices etc.) provides such assistance as consultations, referral to other consultation facilities, medical and psychological guidance, temporary protection of victims and their families, provision of information on self-dependent life, the protection order system and the use of shelters.
e) Outline for Implementing Measures to Protect Women and Children
Pursuant to the "Outline for Implementing Measures to Protect Women and Children," the police make arrests or take other proper measures for incidents that violate criminal laws and/or similar bylaws which carry penalties. As regards incidents that do not violate such laws or bylaws, the crime-prevention guidance and referral to relevant organizations are provided, and, depending on the case, directions and/or warnings are given to the perpetrators, if necessary.
Taking into consideration the spirit of the Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims which has come into effect, the police continue to promote appropriate measures standing on the victim's side while taking full account of their physical and psychological conditions, and closely work with relevant organizations.
f) The Human Rights Organs of the Ministry of Justice
Since the enforcement of the "Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims," the Human Rights Organs of the Ministry of Justice have been making efforts to further strengthen cooperation with related organizations and to help victims in accordance with the Law. In particular, because domestic violence such as husbands' violence against wives tends to be kept latent, the Organs actively offer guidance and suggestions not only in the reported cases of spousal violence but also in marital problems as well, when they are contacted, for example, through a counseling hotline called "Women's Rights Hotline," which is a special telephone consultation service on various human rights issues surrounding women.
Furthermore, a special TV program on domestic violence was produced and broadcast in FY2001 to raise human rights consciousness.
g) Civil Legal Aid System
The Civil Legal Aid System is utilized for the petition for protection order against court, which is stipulated in the "Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims" enforced in October 2001. Aid is also provided when possible divorce cases are brought into divorce arbitration or divorce lawsuit. The number of cases to which civil legal aid was made available based on the decision by the Legal Aid Association totaled 20,261 in FY2000, of which 2,873 involved divorce. In a considerable number of these divorce cases spousal violence is thought to be one of the primary causes for such cases, and the Civil Legal Aid System plays a role in providing legally effective solutions to cases in which serious domestic violence of husbands is observed.
(3) Prevention of Child Abuse
a) Child Abuse Prevention Law
In May 2000, the "Child Abuse Prevention Law" was enacted with the aim of promoting measures against child abuse, and was enforced in November of the same year.
Child abuse covered by this Law includes physical and mental abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Child abuse cases handled by Child Guidance Centers (174 centers throughout the nation) in FY2000 totaled 17,725, of which 754 or 4.3% were cases of sexual abuse.
In dealing with child abuse, efforts are being made to promote various measures, such as strengthening consultation functions of Child Guidance Centers and establishing networks in local communities, so that the Child Guidance Centers, in close cooperation with relevant organizations of welfare, health, medical care, police, education and so on can deal with child abuse in an appropriate manner at each of stage of the problem, namely prevention, early identification, quick response and care for abused children at the facilities and so on.
b) Protection of Abused Children
Child abuse is a serious issue which could severely affect a child, who is in the period of personality development, both mentally and physically. Therefore, the police, taking the spirit of the "Child Abuse Prevention Law" into consideration, have been making efforts to protect abused children properly by early identification and reporting of child abuse, proper assistance to spot inspections by the superintendents or other staff of Child Guidance Centers, proper prosecution and assistance for children, while trying to maintain cooperation with relevant organizations.
c) Publicizing the Obligation to Notify Among People Involved in Education
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (the Ministry of Education) publicizes the obligation to notify child abuse to the Child Guidance Centers to people engaged in school and social education through local governments. Since the enforcement of the "Child Abuse Prevention Law" in November 2000, it has imposed an obligation to make efforts toward early detection of child abuse cases on those who are in the position to be able to detect child abuse relatively easily because of the nature of their professions, such as school teachers and staff, staff of child welfare facilities, medical doctors, public health nurses, lawyers and others. With this in mind, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (the Ministry of Education) has been repeatedly publicizing to those involved in school and social education the intent and purpose of the Law such as the obligation to identify child abuse early and obligation to notify child abuse to the Child Guidance Center.
d) The Human Rights Organs of the Ministry of Justice
The Human Rights Organs of the Ministry of Justice have considered "child abuse" as a serious human rights issue that cannot be overlooked, and have made efforts to eliminate it. With the enforcement of the "Child Abuse Prevention Law," the Organs have been making efforts to further strengthen cooperation with related organizations. They are also further reinforcing efforts to help abused children by, for example, enlightening people concerned on the respect for human rights.
In FY2001, to raise human rights consciousness, the Human Rights Organs of the Ministry of Justice produced a movie on child abuse, and distributed it to The Legal Affairs Bureaus and District Legal Affairs Bureaus throughout Japan.
(4) Discrimination Against Girl's Rights and Human Rights Infringement
The Human Rights Organs of the Ministry of Justice have been working on improvement of the counseling system on human rights. For example, a counseling hotline called "Children's Rights Hotline," has been introduced to help resolve the human rights problem relating to children, including girls, such as bullying, corporal punishment or child abuse.
When recognizing a suspected case of human rights violations involving children such as bullying, corporal punishment or child abuse, in the course of their consultations on human rights and so on, the Human Rights Organs conduct prompt investigation into the case as a human rights violation incident to find the facts, take steps appropriate for the case, and educate the persons in the case about respect for human rights. In this manner, they endeavor to prevent human rights violations and take remedial actions for the victims of human rights violations.
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