OSAKA — The Osaka Prefectural Government on Friday instructed two private detective agencies that violated a prefectural ban on discriminating against descendants of the “buraku” (hamlet) outcast class to refrain from doing so in the future,

According to the prefecture, the detective agencies, which were not named, were asked by six local companies to investigate the identity of eight job-seekers in 1992 and 1993, and checked whether their addresses were neighborhoods where descendants of the former outcast class live.

The “burakumin” class was a political creation of the Edo Period (1603-1867). The outcasts included butchers, leather tanners and others involved in trade that was deemed unclean based on Buddhist principles.

Although the class was officially abolished in 1871 under the Meiji government, discrimination against their descendants has continued in such matters as employment and marriage.

Osaka Gov. “Knock” Yokoyama said the violations are a serious matter that can destroy the local government’s longtime efforts to eradicate such practices.

After investigating the detective agencies in July, the prefecture instructed one of them to set up a system to follow the ban and keep a record of its investigations. wo semipublic corporations backed by the Osaka Municipal Government were included among 1,400 businesses that have held contracts with the two detective agencies.

Osaka Mayor Takafumi Isomura said he was shocked to hear the semipublic companies were among them. ‘It should not have happened, as we are trying to invite the 2008 Summer Olympics here as an international city that protects human rights,” he said, adding that the city set up a task force to promote awareness of the issue last September.

Five local business organizations, including the Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren) released a statement, calling businesses to conduct fair screening of job-seekers and to eliminate such discrimination.

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