International human rights conventions and municipal laws

The alumni association of the Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU) Faculty of Theology held an open lecture at the Shibuya campus on September 22, 2016. Dr. Hae Bong Shin, born and raised in Japan as South Korean permanent resident, graduate of Aoyama Gakuin High School and University (because her parents told her “mission schools may have a minimum amount of discrimination”), faculty member in AGU’s Department of Public Law, and an expert in international human rights law, spoke on “Human rights and international society today: the realities and the problems.”

During her lecture, Shin shared, “After the United Nations was founded in 1945, it defined the standards of human rights and established various conventions.” She explained that the 1979 adoption of the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) had a significant impact on Japan. Nationality law changes adopted in 1985 following CEDAW’s adoption provided that Japan’s application of jus sanguinis [a legal principle in which the nationality of a child is determined by a parent’s nationality rather than by place of birth] would allow children born to female Japanese nationals to possess Japanese nationality, even if the husbands did not.

Since CEDAW also affected the Government Guidelines for Education, home economics began to be taught to both male and female students in junior and senior high schools. In the realm of employment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was established.

Shin also explained that the Law on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities which was implemented in April 2016 stems from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): “This Act orders society to make reasonable accommodation for the disabled and to give them more opportunities to get out of the house.”

Concerning the hate speech problem, Shin said, “In Japan, despite counsel from the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, municipal laws remained without prohibitions against hate speech for 20 years. However, the Act on the Promotion of Efforts to Eliminate Unfair Discriminatory Speech and Behavior against Persons Originating from Outside Japan was adopted in May 2016. This is not enough but we moved one step forward. . . . Education is fundamental to protecting human rights, but even university students have never learned about this area.”

“The right to knowledge is also vital. Although the United Nations counseled the Japanese government in 2001 (10 years before the Fukushima accident) to provide open information regarding both safety and the potential dangers of nuclear power generation to local residents, the advice was ignored and the disaster occurred. This was a serious human rights problem.”   

Summarized and translated by Tomoko Katō
From Japan Update #72 (Winter 2017), the English newsletter of the Japan Evangelical Association (JEA)

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