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Child abuse in Japan

Mia Kurihara, 10 years old, died at the beginning of the year after being abused by her father. Months earlier, 5-year-old Yua Funato died after being a victim of continual abuse and negligence at home. These cases have propelled the debate on child abuse in Japan.

 

Iramsy Peraza Forte

 

Though they shocked Japanese society, the cases of Mia and Yua are not isolated episodes, and they served to highlight the lack of measures in place in the country aimed at preventing this type of situation.

Japanese analysts have stated on repeated occasions that child abuse in the home is one of the biggest problems currently facing Japanese society.

In 2018, 80,104 cases of supposed sexual abuse and mistreatment of minors were investigated in the country, which is a record number and constitutes a 22.4% increase on the previous year, according to data from the National Police Agency. Seventy percent of these cases were related to psychological abuse by one or both parents, while the rest are related to physical abuse, abandonment, neglect and sexual violence.

This blight had already reached record numbers in 2017, and more than 130,000 cases were treated during this period, according to official data from the Ministry of Health, Employment and Wellbeing.

Since 1990, when statistics on child abuse first began to be compiled, the number of reports has not stopped rising, now amounting to 27 years of consecutive growth.

As the statistics show, cases of child abuse have increased one hundred times more than at the start of the 1990s, which has led to this matter being a high priority in Japanese politics.

The causes

In accordance with information from the Ministry of Health cited by the chain NHK, the rise in child abuse cases does not necessarily correspond to a rise in abuse itself, but an increase in awareness about this issue.

According to experts, social isolation and poverty are among the primary causes, however, this is not enough to explain such a sharp increase in reported cases.

Social motives such as getting married due to pregnancy, a partial increase in teenage mothers, a general increase in divorce and one-parent families are some of the matters that lead to this alarming phenomenon. On the other hand, other sources attribute this rise to an awareness-raising process that leads to more frequent reports.

The police is not always motivated to investigate private matters such as child abuse and gender violence.

Furthermore, social services lack the necessary resources when faced with parents that refuse to cooperate, stated Kyoshi Miyajima talking to the press, a former child counsellor and currently employee at Japan’s Faculty of Social Work.

According to Miyajima, focusing too much on promoting children’s rights can lead to the notion that this kind of abuse is an individual problem as opposed to a social issue that must be addressed by society as a whole.

Measures

The problem of violence against minors undermines the authorities of this third world power, where the majority of citizens enjoy a dignified life and a privileged status when it comes to rights.

That said, the scale of the problem has forced the government to take urgent measures to bring more visibility to the issue of child abuse and to confront this problem.

For this reason, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has presented a draft law that proposes strengthening measures against child abuse and banning physical punishment towards children.

The aim is to revise the current regulations and ban corporal punishment towards children inflicted by parents or teachers.

One of the changed proposed in this initiative is the revision of the parental right recognised in the Japanese Civil Code that allows parents to discipline their children.

This regulation, applied five years ago, has received numerous criticism for legally allowing parents to physically punish their offspring.

In accordance with the draft of the legislation, it is planned to strengthen the authority and increase centres for children – there are currently 210 across the country – with the aim to immediately secure the withdrawal of abused children.

There is currently a hotline available, created by the government in 2016 to make it easier to call for help or report abuse. (PL)

(Translated by Lucy Daghorn – Email: lucy.daghorn@gmail.com) Photos: Pixabay

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