Japan

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Persistent violations
  • Discriminatory legal provisions in the Civil Code with respect to the minimum age for marriage (18 for boys, 16 for girls)[1]
  • Discrimination against children born out of wedlock [2]
  • Discrimination against children from minority groups in education, particularly against Korean, Burakumin and Ainu children [3]
  • Corporal punishment [4]
  • Trafficking in women and children [5]
  • Sexual violence against women and girls [6]

For full details, go here

Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, UN Human Rights Committee, Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, UN Human Rights Committee
  3. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  6. UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, UN Committee against Torture



Introduction

An island nation, Japan lies to the east of China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia. A constitutional monarchy, since 1947 the power of the emperor has been reduced to a ceremonial figurehead, while the government is led by a prime minister and operates on liberal-democratic principles. Although overall human rights standards are high, Japan continues to have particular problems with discrimination along the lines of gender, disability, ethnic minorities and family circumstances.

Geography

Japan is an archipelago nation in East Asia made up of 6,852 islands, although the four largest account for the vast majority of its population. Located in the Pacific Ocean, to the east of China and to north of Taiwan, Japan lies in an area of considerable tectonic activity leaving it prone to destructive earthquakes.

Tokyo is the country's capital city.

Population and language

Japan has a population of around 127 million people, although since 2007 this figure has begun to decline[1]. As a result of the post-war “baby boom” the country has an ageing demographic which, combined with declining birth rates, is likely to lead to a period of sustained negative growth in population[2]. This population is ethnically homogenous, with 98.3 per cent being of Japanese ancestry, while the remaining 1.7 per cent are mostly made up of those who are ethnically Chinese or Korean[3].

Japanese is the first language of 99 per cent of the population.

Politics

The Japanese political system takes the form of a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature. Emperor Akihito is the current Emperor, but his role is largely that of a ceremonial figurehead. The Liberal Democratic Party (自由民主党 Jiyū-Minshutō) has been the leading force in Japanese politics since the 1950s, having been consistently in power between 1955 and 1993, and taking a lead in coalition governments for much of the 1990s and the early 21st century. In 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (民主党 Minshutō), which was founded through the merging of several smaller parties, won the national elections, forming a coalition to secure majorities in both houses of the legislature. The Prime Minister is the leading figure in the Japanese political sphere, a position currently held by Naoto Kan.

Economy

In the three decades following the 1950s Japan saw incredibly high levels of economic growth, and although this growth slowed significantly in the 1990s, Japan remains the world's third largest economy. The nation's industrial sector is heavily reliant on imported raw materials and fuels, but is among the world's largest producers of technologically advanced motor vehicles, electronic equipment, machine tools, ships, chemicals and textiles[4]. The Japanese economy was initially well protected against the 2008 financial crisis, as it was not particularly exposed to sub-prime mortgage investment, but a sharp down-turn in global investment and decreasing demand for Japanese exports pushed the economy into recession in the late months of 2008. The earthquake of 2011 has also caused severe damage to Japanese infrastructure, with sources estimating the cost of repairs to be as high as US$300 billion and economists projecting that the recovery from the financial crisis will be substantially delayed by the aftermath of the disaster[5].

Children's rights

Discrimination is an ongoing problem in both Japanese law and society. While children born out of wedlock do not have the same rights of inheritance as those born to a married couple and male children cannot legally be victims of rape, de facto discrimination is felt in various aspects of life by women, children with disabilities and members of ethnic minority communities. Suicide rates in Japan are also among the highest in the world[6], an issue that has been raised repeatedly by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, particularly with regards to the prevalence among adolescents. While civil society has played a role in reporting to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its comparatively small role in developing and monitoring the development of child rights policy has been highlighted in the Committee's reports.

Footnotes:

  1. UNDESA (2009d). “World Population Prospects; The 2008 Revision”. New York: Department for Economic and Social Affairs
  2. The Statistical Handbook of Japan 2010
  3. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Country Profile: Japan
  4. Ibid
  5. Reuters, by Rie Ishiguro and Shinji Kitamura, Japan quake's economic impact worse than first feared”, 12 April 2011
  6. WHO Mental Health Statistics

Sources:


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