National / Social Issues

In wake of tragic cases, Japan set to ban corporal punishment of children by parents

Kyodo

The government and the ruling coalition plan to include a ban on corporal punishment of children by parents in law revisions following a series of recent child maltreatment cases in the name of discipline, sources have said.

The planned law revisions are also aimed at strengthening the authority of child welfare centers to ensure prompt separation of children from abusive parents, the sources said Saturday. Foster parents and welfare workers would also be banned from physically punishing children as a means of discipline.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to approve the revisions in mid-March and enact the legislation during the current Diet session as it looks to strengthen the prevention of child abuse after the recent tragic death of children due to alleged parental mistreatment.

The father of Yua Funato was arrested last year for allegedly assaulting the 5-year-old girl, who died on March 2 last year at their Tokyo home after she had left desperate pleas for her parents to “forgive” her and stop mistreating her.

The January death of Mia Kurihara in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, also came under the spotlight after the 10-year-old girl’s father allegedly made her stand for long periods of time in the name of “discipline,” according to investigative sources.

In that case, a lack of communication between a local welfare center and her school, and their slow response to her repeated calls for help, were highlighted.

While the current law on prevention of child abuse says that assault and committing lewd acts constitute abuse, it does not clearly stipulate what types of parental discipline are considered physical punishment, saying only that those exercising parental authority “shall give due consideration to appropriate exercise of such authority in disciplining” his or her child.

The government aims to clarify in a guideline what kinds of disciplinary acts constitute physical punishment.

As the guideline may contradict the right to discipline guaranteed under the civil law to those with parental authority, the government will discuss whether the civil law will need to be revised.

As a measure to strengthen the role of child welfare centers, certain officials will be responsible exclusively for separating children from parents while other officials will be responsible for consulting with and giving advice to parents, the sources said.

Consultation work experience will be required for those in charge of working with parents and all consultation centers will have lawyers and doctors.

There are about 210 such centers nationwide and they dealt with over 130,000 cases of consultation and child abuse reports in the fiscal year through March 2018.