Buraku Liberation News, May 1998 issue (No.102)

The Current Condition of Minorities in Japan and Challenges - the Buraku Issue

By Shigeyuki Kumisaka,
President of the BLL
Director of the IMADR

This is the latter half of the transcript of the speech by Mr. Shigeyuki Kumisaka (then Secretary General of the BLL), which he delivered at a forum held after the 10th Session of the IMADR's Board of Director's Meeting, in October 1997 in Germany, regarding the current condition of minorities in Japan and challenges that the BLL faces.

  1. The Japanese government conducted a survey to grasp the actual conditions of Dowa areas in 1993. The study revealed that while housing conditions have improved to some extent in Dowa communities under the Dowa Projects, there still remained a clear gap between Buraku communities and non-Buraku communities in terms of enrollment of children in high schools and colleges, and the employment situation which naturally relate to one's educational achievement.

    Towards the elimination of a discriminatory consciousness in the public mind, a certain progress has been made. However, as typically shown in a survey of public consciousness regarding marriage, people still entertain deep-rooted discriminatory ideas.

    As it has been repeatedly shown, the traditional way of thinking of Japanese, giving the greatest importance to "consciousness of family origin" and "reputation in the public" hinders the way towards the elimination of discrimination.

    Although discriminatory incidents are still rampant, it is clear that no effective relief mechanisms are available in Japan to those who suffer discrimination.

    Let me describe the typical patterns of current discriminatory incidents.

    1. Discrimination at the time of marriage still continues. In some instances, young men or women of Buraku origin found no solution but committing suicide.

    2. Discrimination at the time of employment and in workplaces still exists.

    3. There have been many cases in the real estate trade that transactions of properties are turned down when they are found to be located in the vicinity of or inside Buraku areas.

    4. There have been many discriminatory incidents in schools, from elementary school to college levels.

    5. In mass media, the word "Buraku" or the related words are frequently used to depict any form of social ills.

    6. Scribbling and anonymous letters/phone calls with a full of discriminatory expression are frequently made. They make these out of envy of the improvement that Buraku communities have achieved under the Dowa Projects. In not a few cases, these unidentifiable people made agitating scribbles, such as "Wipe out Burakumin," or "Liquidate all Burakumin." Some discriminatory scribbling accompany words insulting Korean residents in Japan or people with disabilities.

    7. With the wide-spread use of electronic communication tools, the number of discriminatory propaganda and agitation has been on the increase on the internet.

    8. Some of those who have repeatedly made discriminatory propaganda hardly stop doing it despite the advice and caution given by several people and organizations. Such cases are increasing in number.

  2. In order to completely eliminate Buraku discrimination and to establish a society where human rights are truly guaranteed, we have developed an extensive campaign calling for the enactment of the Fundamental Law for Buraku Liberation since May 1985.

    As a result of our campaign, Japan acceded the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in December 1995. However, Japan has reserved Article 4(a) and 4(b) that declare that discriminatory propaganda and incitement to racial discrimination shall be punishable offenses. Also, the government has not yet accepted Article 14 requiring the state to declare its intention to receive complaints from individuals or groups claiming to be victims of human rights violations.

    In respect to the implementation of measures for the improvement of Dowa areas, the Law Regarding the Special Fiscal Measures of the Government for Regional Improvement Projects has been extended for another five years with some amendments.

    In December 1996, the Law of Promotion of Measures for Human Rights Protection was enacted. Under the new law, the Council for Human Rights Protection was set up in May 1997.

    Based on the discussions and recommendations to be presented by the Council, it is likely that the law for the promotion of human rights education and enlightenment, including Dowa education, will be enacted in two years, and the law to effectively remedy victims of human rights violations, including victims of Buraku discrimination, will be enacted in five years.

    The law embodies the essence of Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution(*), while functioning as a guide to enact national laws consistent with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In addition, the law is expected to play a vital role in achieving the elimination of any form of discrimination, including Buraku discrimination.

    Through our experiences over the past seventy years since the foundation of the National Levelers Association, we understand that it is not easy to put the new law into practice. With propaganda saying that Japan has entered in the "massive competition era," some discriminatory forces demand a cut-down of social welfare programs, deny the war responsibility of Japan, and agitate anti- foreign sentiment. We should not underrate the potential impact that maneuvers of these forces would give.

    While consolidating our solidarity with people inside and outside the country, we will bravely fight back attacks of reactionary forces and resolutely go forward towards the enactment of the Fundamental Law.

  3. All of us at the BLL are very proud that we have maintained the spirit of international solidarity since the National Levelers Association, and contributed to the foundation of the IMADR with the leadership of late Mr. Saichiro Uesugi, the former President of the BLL.

    On behalf of the BLL, I would like to confirm to you that the BLL will continue to commit ourselves to the consolidation of the international movement of the IMADR.

    In conclusion, we would be most grateful if all of you at the IMADR will continually support us for successful achievements of our challenges.

    (*)Article 14 of the Constitution of Japan

    All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.