Human Rights Implementation in Japan


The most crucial human rights comprise the right to life, freedom of movement, freedom of education, and the freedom of healthcare among others. Most of these rights were first listed in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948. Nowadays, sixty years later people can see that though these rights are of noble nature and that most countries of the world have accepted them, the situation with their implementation is different in every country and demands additional efforts in Japan. Looking deeper, one can see that the main issue regarding human rights implementation in Japan concerns children (underlining bullying, child prostitution and child pornography), women (inequality), and discrimination of HIV carriers. Therefore, legislation changes in the country can become effective to cope with these challenges.

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Historical Background

Japanese society has strictly divided people from different social backgrounds. According to Bloise, such social peculiarities and political situation are largely predetermined by the cultural factor and the traditional controlling role of the judiciary body. It has caused inequality and limitations of rights and freedoms among the lower caste in comparison to others, most powerful social layers. Japan has to recognize that the abidance by the human rights is one of the most important factors that ensure the functioning of modern society. However, in Japan, the implementation of human rights is not as perfect as it may seem. At the time of the Cold War, the government decided that focusing on the industrial development and raising the economy of the country is much more important than implementing the human rights. In 1979, the government adopted the international covenant that guaranteed the human rights in all fields of governmental influence. Between 1979 and 1994, the government also ratified other covenants, which were related to child protection, struggle with racism, economy market, and democracy. The economic and political fields were under special attention as the Overseas Development Assistant Charter emphasized particular importance of “promoting democratization, introduction of a market economy and… securing of basics rights and freedoms in the country”. Despite economic problems and a harmful influence of the West, the Japanese culture as no other culture respects and reveres the notion of the human right to freedom. Nowadays, this statement is reflected in all spheres of the public and governmental activity.
With a number of conventions and treaties signed by Japan, one can see it obviously attempts to ensure social, cultural, and political rights, forbid racial or gender discrimination and inhuman treatment, and protect children and refugees. The above term underlines the importance of equality and non-discrimination on a variety of levels. In the nineteenth century, the Japanese people even created a special term for human rights, Jinken. The first step to adopt human rights was made in 1946 by the aid of the Constitution of Japan. In the late nineteenth century, American ideas and technology had a great influence on the Japanese culture. The formation of the law of human rights in Japan was caused by the rebellion against the discrimination of the lower class of workers called Burakumin. This movement was agreed by the government, and the early Japanese Constitution appeared in 1922. Afterwards, the main law was extended with the articles related to the rules of the management of the country and the provision of untouchable democracy. Nowadays, the constitution prohibits such issues as child prostitution, child pornography, and child labor abuse.

Human Rights Control

The implementation of human rights in Japan has been provided by two organizations that create favorable conditions for every person in Japan and ensure justice. The Human Rights Bureau is controlled by the Ministry of Justice and does not only work with the cases of human rights violation, but with the moral state of citizens. The second system consists of people who are partial to residents and social problems in the country. The mission of volunteers is to support people and consolidate the entire Japanese society. However, volunteers’ reports show that in the present situation, when the government controls the Human Rights Bureau, a number of human rights violations are neglected. Hence, though the situation with human rights in Japan is better than in many countries, the lack of independent non-government organizations creates major difficulties in finding a national remedy against human rights violations.
It is generally known that there are several groups of people discriminated in Japan. Discrimination against national minority Burakumin, immigrants from other countries, children, people with disabilities, and women are not single cases in Japan. Hence, the main aim of the Human Rights Bureau and the Human Rights Volunteers is to avoid infringements peacefully by the conciliation of claims. Even so, a huge disadvantage is a lack of a human rights institution. On the other hand, Japan has ratified several treaties with the help of the UNO. Unfortunately, even with the help of these documents, Japanese courts are weak to satisfy the requirements of human rights standards.

Human Rights in Medicine

Throughout history, the Asian medicine was completely different from the one in other cultures by methods of treatment. Its special way of therapy created a great interest to the Asian medicine across the world. It is mostly based on stimulating the body to struggle against diseases and disorders by itself. Regardless of modern technologies, the Asian medicine still exists in Japan and should be analyzed in line with the patients’ rights. In this country, doctors are greatly supported by the government and sometimes neglect patients’ ideas. As a result, the Japanese people tried to fight for patients’ rights in the movement of the 80-90-ies. Until now, patients with mental disorders cannot completely rely on their family because a refusal from medical help is inappropriate in the community. However, according to the experience of the Asian medicine, one can say that the implementation of human rights in the medical sphere guarantees a much more effective process of treatment, especially of mental disorders.
Infectious disease laws in Japan deserve particular attention. They help to control and fight with the epidemics of HIV/AIDS and TB. Such disease as HIV/AIDS is considered a major threat in Japan. The IDPL (Infectious Disease Prevention Law) and Amended Infectious Disease Prevention Law attach great importance to human rights. These new laws give better access to such human rights as the right to health through the availability of health care and an increase in the number of medical facilities where Japanese citizens can receive medical attention). Moreover, other laws on the rights related to health guarantee that a sick person will not be discriminated and will be treated with dignity.
Attention to human rights in Japanese laws related to HIV/AIDS and TB is progressing. There are some results of such abidance by the international norms and standards. Other contributors to these results are NGOs, advocating for human rights. However, some areas require additional attention in the future. First, one can see that discrimination in the context of HIV and TB remains a considerable challenge. Second, the protection of health professionals is not observed in these laws properly and requires further amendments. Third, restrictions on human rights must be very carefully monitored; it is obvious that because these infections are highly infectious, sometimes the rights of the movement can be limited, but only as a last measure.

ASEAN-Japan Cooperation

Even though Japan has overcome some challenges on the way to human rights implementation, it has a great experience in the sphere. The research by Takeshi provided evidence that such rights can help ASEAN countries to establish a community based on the principle of openness and the rule of law in East Asia. A number of documents adopted by the ASEAN Commission on Human Rights, such as the ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action, promote human rights and liberties in the countries. However, these efforts were met coldly by non-democratic nations. In the final versions of these documents, the references to human rights are very vague. Takeshi marked out that primarily Japan could help these countries. The most important thing promoting human rights in Japan was the development of non-government organizations (NGO). The latter appeared to be very effective in controlling the government elite. In addition, there should be a strong cooperation of city/rural NGOs, as well as international bodies.


Japan is one of the most democratic Asian countries. However, it has been still facing some challenges regarding the requirements of human rights standards, namely the discrimination against national minority Burakumin, immigrants from other countries, children, people with disabilities or inflectional diseases, and women. Hence, the main aim of the government is to make the Human Rights Bureau, Human Rights Volunteers or other separate institutions avoid the existing challenges.

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