Japan Needs Basic Law to Set Forth New Vision for Child-Rearing (1) [2020/01/22]
“In no country in the world, are babies more closely attended or better behaved than in Japan,” wrote the American zoologist Dr. Edward Morse, who is known for discovering the Omori Shell Mounds, in his book Japan Day by Day based on his observations of the country while living there during the late 1870s and early 1880s.
Ms. Isabella Bird, an English traveler and writer who toured many parts of Japan in the late 19th century, wrote in her book Unbeaten Tracks in Japan that she had never seen people who cared as much about their children as the Japanese.
In the century and a half since, Japan has been transformed into a modern, affluent nation.
On the other hand, child-rearing has become a concern, with more cases of child abuse reported. According to a preliminary report compiled by the Heath, Labor and Welfare Ministry, child welfare centers across the nation handled a record 159,850 cases of child abuse, including physical and psychological abuse and child neglect, during fiscal 2018.
▼Fading Culture of Raising Children as a Treasure of Society
Behind this is the fast decline in the Japanese tradition of children being regarded as a treasure of society and being raised by the whole community, due to the growing number of nuclear families, the declining birthrate, the aging of society and the collapse of a sense of local community.
Under the circumstances, Japan needs to develop a new culture of child-rearing. Toward this goal, I would like to propose enacting a basic law on the child, setting forth a new parenting vision and a basic policy on child-rearing.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 196 countries, stipulates state parties shall recognize that every child has the right to survival, protection and education. Under the convention, which it ratified in 1994, Japan shifted the focus of child nursing from institutions to homes through the revision of Child Welfare Act as well as the Child Abuse Prevention Act and the Juvenile Act.
But the government cannot cope with the rapid changes taking place in society adequately due in part to the vertical relationship between ministries and agencies that supervise relevant laws and regulations.
According to a survey conducted last summer by non-governmental organization Save the Children Japan, covering about 30,000 people ranging from 15- to 80-year-olds across Japan, the least observed right of the child as laid down under the convention is contained in Article 19, which calls for protecting the child from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation.
It was truly distressing that a 5-year-old girl in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, and a 10-year-old girl in Noda City, Chiba Prefecture, died after each had allegedly been abused by her father in March 2018 and in January 2019, respectively.
In its report made public in February 2019, The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about “the high level of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation of children” in Japan, urging the authorities in Tokyo to, among other things, “speed up the establishment of child-friendly reporting, complaint and referral mechanisms for child victims of abuse.”
(To be continued)