Buraku Liberation News September 1999 No.110

Buraku Children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Tomoko Nakajima

First of all, I would like to present my compliments to the "UN Committee on the Rights of the Child" on their untiring efforts for a full realization of "the Convention on the Rights of the Child." I am also honored to be given this opportunity to talk about the current situation of the children of Buraku communities who have long been discriminated against in Japan, in relation to the effective use of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. When I attended the International Conference on Human Rights Education in the Asia-Pacific Region held in Osaka last year, I found that the problem of Buraku discrimination, one of the gross human rights violations in Japan, was recognized only by a few people abroad. In reality, Buraku discrimination is right here in Japan, threatening the life of every child in the Buraku community. Meanwhile, "Dowa Education" based on the issue of Buraku discrimination is a well developed human rights education program which Japan can be proud of. As I have strongly felt the necessity to disseminate information about "Dowa Education" and the reality of Buraku discrimination throughout the world, I am specifically pleased at this opportunity.  It has been five years since Japan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United Nations designated the decade from 1995 to 2004 as "the UN Decade for Human Rights Education," which was followed by the announcement of the Plan of Action for the Decade. In Japan, the government worked out the "National Plan of Action," while local governments, including the Osaka Prefectural Government, have successively made their own action plans. In addition, this spring the Osaka Prefectural Government made the "Basic Policy for Human Rights Education" and the "Promotion Plan", which are starting to bring about positive effects.  Meanwhile, children in Japan are surrounded by difficult problems. In early 1997, a junior high school student killed a small boy in Kobe City, shocking the entire society, especially those who are involved in education service and school administration. The administrators of education, including the Ministry of Education, took the matter very seriously, and the Central Council for Education prepared the proposal "education for healthy mental development of children from the early stage of childhood" immediately after the incident. This proposal was followed by many proposals addressing the problem. These moves actually constitute the second largest wave of educational reform in modern Japan following the largest one right after World War II.  Before the incident in Kobe, bullying and 'fu-toko (refusal to go to school)' had already been social problems in Japan. In addition, a new problem called 'collapse of class' is emerging in elementary schools threatening the stable provision of education at schools. Besides, children are subject to possible violations of their rights at schools, including child abuse and sexual harassment.

Discrimination against Buraku Children

While the above problems prevail throughout the country, affecting almost all children, children in minority groups face severer conditions. Among them, I am focusing on problems imposed on Buraku children.  To begin with, it should be noted that discriminatory incidents against Buraku people continue one after another. In 1997, it was discovered that one of the leading investigative agencies in Osaka provided the service of personal background investigation. Upon requests from its clients, the company conducted investigations into personal matters of a person (who applied for a job opening at the client company) to find out if the applicant was from a Buraku community, what his/her religion or belief was, and so on.  On the basis of its findings, the client decided on employment. This obviously constituted discrimination in employment. This was the first case of infringement of the 1985 Ordinance to Regulate Personal Background Investigation Conductive to Buraku Discrimination since its issuance. In the course of revealing the truth, it was found that the company had kept the banned 'Chimei Sokan (Buraku Lists identifying locations of Buraku throughout the country)' and sold the investigation service while referring to the Directory. In 1998, another incident of such an investigation was discovered in Osaka. These discriminatory incidents indicate that deep-rooted prejudice still exists in the minds of people and companies, while destroying the hopes and dreams that children in Buraku communities entertain for their future.  In 1997, in Nagano prefecture, a second year high school student killed himself. He was from a Buraku community. He left a letter accusing his schoolmates of bullying. They usually took away his lunch box and robbed him of his money. The students who bullied him also bullied other students from the Buraku community when they were junior high school students. He was driven into a corner and found no way out but committing suicide. It is very painful. In schools, incidents related to Buraku discrimination frequently occur. To the knowledge of the Ministry of Education, nearly 200 discriminatory cases take place in schools every year. When including those which do not come to the surface or which are not easily identified as Buraku discriminatory practices though they actually are, the number would be multiple. Among these discriminatory practices are those that were done anonymously. For instance, scribbling discriminatory expressions on walls is a typical practice. There are also incidents involving adults, including teachers. Discriminatory practices in schools are very serious.  One of the factors causing this serious problem is a lack of human rights education in schools. Also, prejudice and the discriminatory consciousness prevailing in society as a whole must be deeply related to the problem. 

(to be continued)

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