Bullying, child abuse at record highs

Kyodo

Legal affairs bureaus nationwide handled a record 3,306 bullying cases at schools last year, up 21.8 percent from the previous year, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

Cases of child abuse also reached a record, at 865, up 12.2 percent, the ministry said.

Of the total, 491 cases were reported by people affected by the March disaster, including children who were bullied at schools after having to move out of the disaster zone, the ministry said.

On the increase in cases, a ministry official said that “more people, including children, have become aware that legal affairs bureaus are providing consultation services.”

In one case, a Justice Ministry bureau arranged for a junior high school student to move to her grandparents’ home after she reported being sexually abused by her stepfather.

Meanwhile, 203 allegations of abuse at social welfare facilities were reported last year, marking a record high for the third straight year, the ministry said.

Reformatory monitoring

The Cabinet approved a bill Friday that would introduce monitoring juvenile reformatories by third-panel parties and allowing inmates more contact with the outside world.

The proposal, aimed at improving transparency in the management of reformatories, will now go to the Diet for further action.

Under the bill, third-party panels consisting of lawyers and education experts would be set up at every juvenile reformatory nationwide to monitor management and give advice on reform.

Granting detainees more leeway, they would be allowed to make phone calls and have visitors more than twice a month, and send more than four letters a month.

The bill would also introduce a system under which detainees could file a claim with the justice minister if they are dissatisfied with their treatment.

The proposal aims to prevent abuse by reformatory officials by clarifying when they are allowed to conduct body checks and use handcuffs.

If passed, it would be the first change to the juvenile training school act since it came into force in 1949.