National / Crime & Legal

Japan government panel reviewing parents' right to discipline children to meet June 20

Kyodo

The government will start next month reviewing a Civil Code provision that sets out parents’ right to discipline their children, based on the view that it has been used as an excuse in serious child abuse cases, Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita said Friday.

Yamashita said he will ask the Legislative Council, an advisory panel at the Justice Ministry, to start examining the matter at a meeting on June 20.

“The situation surrounding child abuse is very serious and the Justice Ministry has been considering a review, given that the (parental) right has continued to be used as an excuse,” Yamashita said. The minister expressed hope for a productive study and deliberation by the panel on the “urgent” issue.

The move comes after a bill banning parents and other guardians from physically punishing children passed the Lower House on Tuesday by a unanimous vote.

The legislation, which is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session through late June and take effect in April next year, calls for reviewing parental disciplinary rights within two years of its entry into force.

While there have been calls in the past for scrapping the disciplinary right clause, it was left intact when Japan amended the Civil Code in 2011 as some said doing away with it would prevent parents from properly disciplining their children.

Article 822 of the Civil Code stipulates that a person who exercises parental authority may discipline a child to the extent necessary for the child’s care and education, provided it’s in their best interest.

But a slew of cases have since occurred in Japan where serious child abuses are alleged to have been carried out in the name of discipline.

Among recent cases was the death of 10-year-old Mia Kurihara at her home in Chiba Prefecture in January after her father allegedly splashed her with cold water and deprived her of food and sleep. The father told investigators he was “disciplining” her.

In March last year, 5-year-old Yua Funato died in Tokyo, after writing desperate pleas for her parents to “forgive” her and stop mistreating her. Her father also said he hit Yua to “discipline” her.

Separately, Yamashita said he will also ask the advisory panel to review a Civil Code provision that assumes a child born within 300 days of a divorce was fathered by the previous husband.

The clause has been blamed for causing hundreds of people not to be listed in a family registry, as most of their births were not reported to the authorities as their mothers sought to prevent them from being recognized as a child of the previous husband.

Not being registered leaves someone without an official certificate to prove his or her identity, causing difficulties with school enrollment and employment among other issues.

As of April this year 827 people were without a family registry, according to the Justice Ministry.

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