Debate on anti-discrimination bill begins in Diet


Staff Writer

The Diet started deliberations Tuesday on a bill that would ban racial discrimination, including harassment and hate speech, and oblige the government to draw up anti-discrimination programs that report every year to lawmakers.

The bill, submitted to the Upper House by opposition lawmakers, was crafted to cope with a recent rise in discrimination against non-Japanese, in particular ethnic Koreans.

However, it does not have punitive provisions and whether it will ever be enacted remains unclear, as lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party reportedly remain reluctant to support the proposal.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and independent Upper House member Keiko Itokazu jointly submitted the bill.

Speaking in the Lower House in February, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized that racial discrimination, including hate speech, should never be tolerated in Japan.

But at the same time, he indicated he is reluctant to push for a new law, saying the government instead will use existing laws to deal with discrimination and promote enlightenment and educational activities.

“First, the government will properly apply existing laws to eradicate hate speech and racial discrimination,” Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee.

However, as Komeito lawmaker Toru Kunishige pointed out during that committee session, current laws apply only to defamation and insults against specific individuals, and not to hate speech against unspecified people of a racial group.

In August last year, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged the Japanese government to regulate hate speech by law, following a rise in racist demonstrations mainly targeting Korean residents.

The Upper House bill would ban:

Unjustifiable discrimination based on race.

Insults and harassment because of the race of a person.

Use of discriminatory and abusive language and activities in public against unspecified people of a certain race.

It would require:

The central and local governments to form basic anti-discrimination policies and programs.

The central government to conduct research on racial discrimination.

The central government to set up a panel of experts on discrimination.

Lawmakers will hold the first question-and-answer session on the bill starting at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Upper House Legal Committee.

As history and territorial issues have flared up with South Korea in recent years, anti-Korean demonstrations with hate speech have been seen on streets in Japan more frequently than in the past.

The Zaitokukai group is among one of the most notorious anti-Korean citizens’ groups in Japan.

In December, the Supreme Court ordered Zaitokukai activists to pay some ¥12 million in damages to a school for ethnic Koreans in Kyoto, and banned the group from demonstrating near the school.

  • Ron NJ

    “Unjustifiable discrimination based on race.”
    And there’s the ever-predictable loophole in Japanese legislation: they just have to justify it.

  • Ignatius

    Yeah “Unjustifiable discrimination based on race.”

    Big loophole. But not only that, in the article they only talk about racial discrimination…

    The problem is most people only see discrimination only as insults or harassment. But discrimination goes beyond that. Discrimination means you don´t consider others as equals, which modifies your actions towards them not only your speech. But, well, you can hide your discriminatory speech. You can choose not to insult others as it´s something frowned upon. But is harder to modify actions, or the subtelty of what you say, or your gestures.

    Discrimination comes from fear of change, the changes that both groups, the one already living there, and the new group, could make while they adapt to a new place in wich both groups can be OK.

    There always cultural shock. You know, “those are my house rules” and all…

    And discrimination comes also from fear of other people in itself, of course…

    Probably this new group have another language, and they will have to learn a new one, which takes time and effort. Not all the people in both group have the willing to understand that learning a languague takes time, there will be misunderstandings, and fails…

    Some people will not have the needed patience, some may be too harsh on the new group. Some of the new group may not be willing to learn a new language…
    And so on…

    Also some people get nervous if they hear people talking in an uknown language, they don´t understand it after all…

    There will problems, of course. But this doesn´t make the effort vain.