The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

Article 10

1. Protection of the Family

(1)Concept of family and dependent children
The Civil Code, Japan's principal code in the field of civil law, adopts the method of indirectly establishing the concept of "family" and its range by regulating the particular legal relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, as well as husband or wife and his or her specific relatives by blood, without stipulating any provisions that directly define the concept of "family" and its range.
Pertaining to the legal relationships between the above, an outline of the regulations concerning the maintenance of livelihood and support (including assistance) is as follows:
(i)Husband and wife are obligated to live together, to cooperate with and to assist each other (Article 752). This obligation is regarded as substantial because it obliges one spouse to guarantee the other's living standard to the same or a similar degree as those of himself/herself. Furthermore, husband and wife shall be jointly liable for the obligations arising from daily household matters (Article 761). In case one spouse is declared incompetent, the other spouse becomes that spouse's legal guardian (Article 840). One spouse will always become the legal heir of the other spouse (Article 890).
(ii)Concerning parents and children, parents exercise parental authority (Article 818), provide custody and education (Article 820), and determine the place of residence (Article 821) of their children until these children reach the age of majority. Parents are as fully obligated to support their children as they are to support each other. In addition, children have the right of succession of the first priority in their relationship with their parents.
(iii)In contrast, siblings and specific relatives by blood or by affinity, have a relatively low degree of obligation; they are solely obligated to assist those who do not have a spouse or parent, or those whose spouse or parent does not have sufficient financial resources to support them.
The above regulations indicate that the Civil Code regards the group consisting of a husband, wife and their minor children as the basic unit of "family" in terms of a communal group.
The Civil Code stipulates the age of 20 years as the age of majority (Article 3),restricts the legal capacity of minors under private law (Article 4), and provides that minor children be subject to the parental authority of their parents (Article 818). Those with parental authority have the right and obligation to take custody of and educate their children (Article 820). Married children under 20 years of age are deemed to have reached their majority under private law (Article 753).
A "child" in the Child Welfare Law, which is enacted for the purpose of promoting the sound growth of children, is defined as a "person under 18 years of age."
(2)Assistance for families
(a)Economic assistance for child rearing
Economic assistance for parents raising children includes a child allowance, which is provided based on the Child Allowance Law, a child-rearing allowance, based on the Child-Rearing Allowance Law, and a special child-rearing allowance, based on the Law Concerning the Provision of the Special Child-Rearing Allowance.
(i)Refer to the part under Article 9 Section 3 of this report regarding Child Allowance.
(ii)The Child-Rearing Allowance is paid to a mother of a fatherless household or a guardian who cares for and rears a child. In the case of one child, the monthly amount is 41,390 yen as of April 1997 (there are adjustments made corresponding to the number of children). The number of recipients totaled 624,101 as of the end of March 1997.
(iii)The Special Child-Rearing Allowance is paid to the parent, or the guardian who cares for and rears or has custody of a child with a mental or physical disability. The monthly amount is 50,350 yen per child with a Class 1 disability as of April 1997. The number of recipients totaled 130,000 as of the end of March 1997.
(b)Nursery care service
Infants and toddlers whose guardians are unable to take care of them adequately due to work, illness, or other reasons, are to be provided nursery care service based on the Child Welfare Law. As of April 1997, approximately 1.65 million infants and toddlers (20% of all infants and toddlers) received nursery care at day-care centers (approximately 22,400 nationwide). The expenses required for nursing infants and toddlers at day-care centers is covered by the national and local governments' budget and by fees which are collected from the guardians based on their financial capability. The Government is taking various measures, including making subsidies to develop nursery facilities.
(c)Child Care Leave
The "Law Concerning Child-care Leave, etc." which was effective from April 1992 was revised to the "Law Concerning the Welfare of Workers Who Care for Children or Other Family Members, Including Child Care and Family Care Leave" (hereinafter "Child Care and Family Care Leave Law") in June 1995. This Law, excluding one section, came into effect in October 1995.
The Child Care and Family Care Leave Law stipulates that workers with a child under one year of age can take child-care leave upon submitting a request to their employer,who may not reject such a request if it satisfies the requisites.
Moreover, employers must take measures to allow workers rearing a child under one year of age and who choose not to take care leave, to remain employed and to facilitate the raising of their child, for example, by shortening working hours (Article 19,Paragraph 1).
Furthermore, the law stipulates to the effect that employers must endeavor to take necessary measures, proportional to those that would allow workers rearing a child who is between the age of one and the age at which primary education commences, to remain employed and facilitate the raising of their child, for example, by shortening working hours (Article 20, Paragraph 1).
(d)Family Care Leave
The Child Care and Family Care Leave Law requests employers to endeavor, in accordance with the law, to institute a family care leave system and take measures for shortening working hours from October 1995. Adherence to this system will be obligatory to all employers from April 1999.
Under this law, workers who take care of family members (spouse, parents and children, parents of spouse, or grandparents, siblings, and grandchildren living together with and supported by the same household) under the requisite conditions (the necessity of giving constant care for over a two-week period), can obtain family care leave for up to three consecutive months upon submitting a request to their employer, who may not reject such a request if it satisfies the requisites.
Employers must also take measures, such as shortening working hours for three continuous months or more, to allow workers taking care of family members under the requisite conditions and who choose not to take family care leave, to remain employed and to facilitate care-giving (Article 20, Paragraph 2).
Furthermore, this law stipulates to the effect that employers must endeavor to take necessary measures in proportion to those that would institute a family care leave system and shorten working hours, thus enabling workers to take care of family members in need (Article 20, Paragraph 2).
(e)Measures for Late night Workers
Together with the partial revision of the Labour Standards Law conducted in 1997, which removes restrictions of over-time work, holiday work, and late night work (from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am) by women workers (Refer to the part under Article 6 section 5 in this report, Ensuring Equal Employment Opportunities, (1) Women Workers.), partial revision of The Child Care and Family Care Leave Law was also conducted and the limitation on late night work by workers who take care of their child or family member was established. These revisions will be enforced in April 1999.
(3)Freedom of Marriage
As mentioned in (1)(a), the basic family unit in Japan is the group consisting of the husband, the wife and their minor children; therefore, marriage is the institution which provides the core of the family in Japan. Article 24, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution stipulates that marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both parties and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. Under the Civil Code, marriage between men and women who have reached their majority is legally contracted through the notification thereof along with certain formalities. There are no legal restrictions with regard to the freedom of marriage,apart from reasonable regulations such as the prohibition of bigamy and consanguineous marriages (even in the case of minors, males over 18 and females over 16 are able to contract marriage with the consent of their parents, in accordance with the same procedure as that for adult couples).
However, it cannot be denied that outmoded attitudes and customs still remain in society, which put high importance on the origin of family and social status in marriage. In this connection, human rights organs in Japan endeavor to promote a full understanding of Article 24 of the Constitution among the public by implementing various awareness-raising activities, in order to eliminate such attitudes and customs.

2. Protection of Mothers

(1)Ensuring the health of expectant or nursing mothers, infants and toddlers
Under the Maternal and Child Health Law, the Government provides health examinations and guidance for expectant or nursing mothers and protectors of infants and toddlers, medical care assistance to expectant or nursing mothers who have illnesses which may have a negative effect on pregnancy or childbirth, medical care benefits for hospitalization of premature infants, and various kinds of health consultations for expectant or nursing mothers and infants. Moreover, the Government establishes maternal and child health centers providing various kinds of consultations related to maternal and child health.
Furthermore, under the Child Welfare Law, the Government provides medical aid and equipment for children with potential disabilities, medical benefits for children suffering from tuberculosis, and medical cost assistance for children with specific chronic diseases, such as children's cancer. Moreover, Japan has maternity homes for expectant or nursing mothers unable to give birth in a hospital for financial reasons.
(2)Economic assistance for childbirth
Those who have Health Insurance are provided with 300,000 yen after giving birth (or in the case where an insured person's dependent wife gives birth, as a spouse child-rearing lump sum for birth and rearing).
A maternity benefit amounting to 60% of the standard monthly remuneration is provided for the period of 42 days before and 56 days after the delivery (extended after the initial report) as a birth grant.
Under the National Health Insurance Scheme, a lump-sum birth and rearing grant is also provided when the insured person gives birth. (Refer to the part under Article 9 Section 1. (1) of this report in regard to the differences between the Health Insurance Scheme and the National Health Insurance Scheme.)
(3)Assistance for fatherless and other families
Under the Law for the Welfare of Mothers with Dependents and Widows, the Government provides interest-free or low-interest loans to fatherless families and widows, for setting up a business, schooling, or other purposes. The number of loans granted in 1996 was approximately 60,000, amounting to 20.67 billion yen.
As measures to promote the independence of mothers and children, and of widows, the Government provides consultative advice through consultation officers for families with widowed mothers and their children, home care service during sickness, priority permission for the establishment of retail stands in public facilities, and established welfare facilities for fatherless families.
(4)Protection of mothers under the Labour Standards Law and the Equal Employment Opportunity Law
(a)The Labour Standards Law stipulates measures for the protection of mothers, which apply to all workers as follows:
(i)Prohibition of expectant and nursing mothers from engaging in underground work (Article 64 (4));
(ii)Limitations for expectant and nursing mothers on engaging in dangerous and injurious work (Article 64 (5));
(iii)Work limitations of 6 weeks before childbirth and 8 weeks after childbirth (14 weeks before childbirth and 10 weeks after childbirth in the case of multiple pregnancy)(Article 65);
(iv)Limitations on shift work and prohibition of overtime work, working on holidays and working at night, when an expectant women or nursing mother so requests (Article 66); and,
(v)Right to request time off for child care for a woman raising an infant under one year of age (Article 67).
(b)The revised Equal Employment Opportunity Law enacted 1997 (Refer to the part under Article 6, Section 5 Ensuring Equal Employment Opportunities (1) Women Workers) places employers under an obligation to take measures for health management of women workers in pregnancy and after childbirth, while employers used to have an obligation to make efforts to take such measures. The following measures have to be taken and this part was enforced in April 1998.
(i)Measures to ensure necessary time for them to receive health guidance and medical examination
(ii)Measures to enable them to observe guidance given by health guidance and medical examination
(c)The Government has established Pre-Natal and Post-Natal Health Management Instruction Standards based on these provisions, and gives guidance to employers to observe these standards.
(d)The Mariners Law also has similar provisions for the protection of mothers.
(5)Suspension of carrying out imprisonment
Concerning imprisonment, the Government may suspend the execution of an imprisonment sentence imposed on those who are in more than 150 days of pregnancy, and for those who have given birth within the past 60 days for the mother's protection.

3. Protection of Children

Japan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in April 1994. Refer to the initial report submitted in 1996, for the implementation of the Convention.

(1)Protection of disabled children
The Government has been reinforcing measures for the prevention, early diagnosis, and early medical care of the mentally or physically disabled, and implementing measures such as the placing of disabled children in institutions for mentally disabled children, schools for mentally disabled children, institutions for physically disabled children, and institutions for blind children, institutions for children with auditory/speech disabilities, and institutions for severely handicapped children, or enabling them to commute to such institutions. Education and care are provided in these institutions. In addition, home welfare measures such as counseling and guidance at child guidance centers and welfare offices and the dispatching of home helpers are also vigorously promoted. As of October 1996, facilities for disabled children numbered 816, and children who used these facilities numbered approximately 38,000.
(2)Care of children who need protection
Children who need protection because they have no guardian or whose guardians are not deemed to be providing adequate care are given either group (custodial) protective care or individual protective care. Group protective care is provided by placing those children into such institutions as infant homes and child protection facilities, while individual protective care is provided by placing them with foster parents or with "vocational guidance foster parents."
(3)Protection of delinquent children
Child Guidance Centers endeavor to provide guidance and to promote sound development of delinquent children who need protection, in cooperation with related organizations. Furthermore, Homes for Resocialization of Minors hold and rehabilitate children who commit delinquent acts or whose guardian custody is inappropriate because of the threat of possible delinquent action.
For juveniles (under 20 years of age) who have committed criminal acts, the Juvenile Law has stipulated special measures to place them under protection in order to correct their characters and adjust their environment.
(4)Protection against economic exploitation
(a)The Labour Standards Law, in principle, prohibits the employment of minors under 15 years of age (Article 56). Exceptions are limited to the following cases:
(i)In the case where a minor over the age of 12 is employed with permission from the appropriate administrative office, in regard to work which is not related to manufacturing, not deemed hazardous to the health and welfare of children, and relatively easy in nature.
(ii)In the case where permission from the appropriate administrative office is obtained in regard to the production of movies or performance work not deemed harmful to the health and welfare of children, and where the work is relatively easy in nature.
From January to December 1996, the number of children under 15 years of age permitted to work was 3,784.
(b)In addition, the Labour Standards Law prohibits minors under 18 years of age from engaging in dangerous or hazardous work and underground work (Articles 62 and 63).
(c)The working hours for minors under 15 years of age was reduced to "40 hours a week including school hours" by the revision of the Labour Standards Law in September 1987 (Article 60, Paragraph 2).
(5)Penalties related to the exploitation of children
Various types of kidnapping including those by force, for profit or ransom, or for transportation outside of the country and trafficking in persons for transportation outside of the country are prohibited and punishable under Article 224 to 228 and Article 228-3 of the Penal Code. Moreover, abandonment of minors needing protection and actions that do not provide minors with necessary protection are prohibited and punishable under Articles 217, 218, and 219 of the Penal Code.
Article 34 of the Child Welfare Law prohibits any acts liable to be psychologically or physically harmful to children, (including acts of child exploitation) and Article 60 of this Law penalizes any person who commits such acts.
(6)Protection of the human rights of children
In 1994, human rights organs implemented a "Civil Liberties Commissioners for the Rights of the Child" system to deal exclusively with the human rights problems of children. Commissioners monitor the human rights of children and if these rights are found to be violated, appropriate measures are taken immediately to provide relief. Furthermore, commissioners implement awareness-raising activities to ensure the protection of children's rights.

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