National / Politics

Japan bill banning parents from physically punishing children set to pass Diet

Kyodo

A bill banning parents and guardians from physically punishing children is set to pass the Diet during the current session, after the ruling and opposition parties agreed on some modifications, lawmakers have said.

The bill is more or less the same as the original one submitted by the government. But it has been modified and will also urge local governments and child welfare centers to offer guidance to parents who have abused children, based on medical and psychological expertise, to prevent the abuse from happening again.

The ruling and opposition parties jointly submitted the modified bill, which passed the Lower House committee on welfare issues Friday.

The bill is likely to make it through the plenary session of the House of Representatives before it is sent to the House of Councilors for passage during the current parliamentary session scheduled to end next month.

The move to revise the child abuse prevention law and related legislation follows fatal cases of abuse conducted in the name of disciplining children.

In March last year, 5-year-old Yua Funato died in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward after leaving desperate pleas for her parents to “forgive” her and stop mistreating her. In January this year, 10-year-old Mia Kurihara died in Chiba Prefecture due to suspected physical abuse by her father, which her mother allegedly failed to stop.

The current child abuse prevention law stipulates that assault and lewd acts constitute abuse. But when it comes to disciplining children, it only says people “shall give due consideration to appropriate exercise” of parental authority.

The planned amendment would also seek to strengthen the ability of child welfare centers to “intervene” in abuse cases by separating staff members in charge of taking children into protective custody from those dealing with their guardians.

While there will be no penalties for offenders under the envisioned legislation, experts on child abuse believe the move will serve as a chance for society to think about what is the appropriate way of disciplining children.