Buraku Liberation News  May 2000 No.114

BLHRRI Sent Information to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights prior to Examination of Japanese Government's Report.

In May the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, responsible for monitoring compliance by State Parties under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), held a Pre-sessional Working Group to hear from NGOs regarding the actual situation of the implementation of the Covenant in the countries, including Japan, which are scheduled to be examined by the Committee during its August session.

In 1998 the Japanese Government submitted to the Committee the Second Periodic Report based on the CESCR. However, the report did not mention the actual situation in relation to the implementation of each article..

At the working group, delegates on behalf of Japanese NGOs, including the IMADR and the NGO Committee on the CESCR organized by several NGOs and individuals from different sectors, submitted the information and delivered statements.

At the end of the session the UN Committee on the CESCR adopted a list of issues to be presented to the Japanese Government for answer. The list consists of 46 questions, including the Buraku issue in relation to Article 2 prohibiting discrimination.

Prior to the May session, the BLHRRI also sent the UN Committee the information on the Buraku and Korean residents' issues, in addition to contributing the information to the IMADR and the NGO Committee.

The following is the information on Buraku issue submitted by the BLHRRI.

List of issues to be taken up regarding the Buraku Discrimination

Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, regarding Discrimination against Buraku People

Kenzo Tomonaga

Director, BLHRRI

Part I: General Comments

Article 7. Regarding the Government Measures for the Socially Disadvantaged

A. Questions:

Buraku people are among the socially disadvantaged. Please disclose the reality of Buraku discrimination, and clarify how it understands the problem and what measures it takes to address the problem.

B. Government's Reports:

In 7 of Part I of the Periodic Reports, the Government did not mention anything about the problem. Besides, in relation to Article 6 in Part II, the Government explicitly mentioned it using the word 'Dowa people.' In relation to Article 10, the Government implicitly touched upon it with the description; "It cannot be denied that outmoded attitudes and customs still remain in society, which put high importance on the origin of family and social status in marriage."

C. Reasons for Raising the Question:

1) The Cabinet Dowa Policy Council made proposals in 1965 with the following statement; "The so-called Dowa problem is a most serious and important social problem of Japan deriving from the fact that a segment of the Japanese people, owing to discrimination based on a class system formed in the process of the historical development of Japanese society, is placed in such an inferior position economically, socially and culturally that their fundamental human rights are grossly violated even in present-day society and that, in particular, their civil rights and liberties, which are ensured to all people as a principle of modern society, are not fully guaranteed in reality."

2) Since July 1969 when the Law on Special Measures for Dowa Projects was enacted, there has been a series of projects and programs implemented under the Law, contributing to the continued improvement of the Dowa problem to a certain extent. Yet, it has still remained as a serious social problem of Japan. This fact was also confirmed in the proposals made by the Regional Improvement Measures Council in 1996. It was pointed out that, "The Dowa problem, as a specific human rights problem of our society, is the most serious and gravest problem violating the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Japanese constitution. It has been more than a quarter century since measures to put an end to the Dowa problem have been actively implemented. While the Dowa problem has been on the way towards a solution with efforts of many people, we have to admit with regret that it is still a very important issue of the today's Japan. In this sense, it is fair to say that the post-war democracy of Japan has been challenged. Also, considering the role that Japan should play in the international society, it is an international responsibility of Japan to make the best efforts to solve the Dowa problem and other human rights problems of the country as early as possible."

3) Consequently, the Government is required to touch upon discrimination against Buraku people in its Second Periodic Reports, specifically in Article 7 of the Socially Disadvantaged of Part I: General Comments.

4) While discrimination against Buraku people still exists causing very serious results, the Government, for the recent years, has been getting less passive in taking actions against it. For example, the present 'Law on Special Measures' will expire by the end of March 2002. The Government has been showing its attitude that it will not support an extension of the "Law on Special Measures." If the Government really wants to eliminate discrimination against Buraku people with certain solid policies, it needs, at least, to conduct a survey to find out the reality of Buraku communities. Unfortunately, we have not heard anything which indicates an intention of the Government to do so.

5) In addition, according to the survey to understand actual conditions of the Dowa districts conducted by the Policy Office for Regional Improvement of the Management and Coordination Agency in 1993, Dowa areas which the Regional Improvement Measures have been implemented amount to 4,442 communities, with the total households of 298,385 and the population of 892,751.


  1.  Dowa problem: A terminology of the administration to refer to the problem of discrimination against Buraku people.
  2.  Dowa people: A terminology of the administration to refer to Buraku people.
  3. Dowa district: A terminology of the administration to refer to Buraku communities inhabited mainly by Buraku people.
  4. Regional Improvement Projects: A terminology of the administration to refer to administrative programs designed for improving poor living conditions of Buraku communities and people. It is sometimes called "Dowa Projects."

Regarding General Comments 4 of Part I-provisions prohibiting discrimination under domestic law- and, Article 6-5) ensuring equal employment opportunities (2) Dowa people, in the report on each article of the Covenant in Part II.

A. Questions:

a) Please disclose the fact of discrimination against Buraku people in employment.

b) Please clarify if discrimination against Buraku people in employment is prohibited under the domestic law.

B. Government's Reports:

1) It did not touch upon the real situation of discrimination against Buraku people in employment in a concrete manner.

2) It did not mention the fact that there is no law in Japan which prohibits discrimination against Buraku people in employment.

C. Reasons for Raising the Questions:

1) Generally speaking, discrimination in employment does not come out easily even when it actually occurs. Yet, every year, several cases are disclosed that Buraku people were discriminated against in employment. One of the most shocking incidents was the so-called "Buraku Lists Scandal" disclosed in 1975. It was revealed that more than 200 companies including many leading companies had purchased the Buraku List for discriminatory purposes. In the process of investigating the case, we found it important that Japan ratifies the ILO No. 111 Convention and enact a domestic law in accordance with the Convention.

2) It has been 25 years since the scandal was revealed. Yet, ratification of No. 111 Convention and enactment of the domestic law has not yet been realized in Japan. During the past quarter century, discrimination against Buraku people in employment has kept going on. For instances, in June 1998, the "Discriminatory Background Investigation Scandal" was found. This incident was as serious and grave as the "Buraku Lists Scandal." Approximately 1,400 companies registered membership with an investigative agency which identified itself as a business consultant firm. To date, it has been found that about 430 out of 1,400 member companies requested the agency to make personal background investigations in relation to their employment affairs. The personal background investigation was secretly conducted to find if job applicants were Buraku people, Korean residents in Japan, followers of Sokagakkai, a religious sect, or trade union activists.

3) If the government had ratified the ILO No. 111 Convention and enacted a domestic law to prohibit any type of discriminatory practices in employment at the time of the "Buraku Lists Scandal," we should not have faced this incident today.

Part II Article 10 1. Protection of the Family - (c) Freedom of marriage

A. Questions:

a) Please explain about discriminatory practices in marriage engagement against Buraku people.

b) Discriminatory practices in marriage engagement are often carried out with involvement of private detective agencies. Please explain what has been actually going on and if there is any regulatory device which can prohibit such activities.

B. Government's Attitude in the Reports:

1) In the Periodic Reports, the Government of Japan stated that: "It cannot be denied that outmoded attitudes and customs still remain in society, which put high importance on the origin of family and social status in marriage. In this connection, human rights organs in Japan endeavor to promote a full understanding of Article 24 of the Constitution among the public by implementing various awareness-raising activities, in order to eliminate such attitudes and customs.

2) The Reports, however, did not include any description about the serious situations resulted from these discriminatory practices in marriage engagement.

3) In addition, it did not touch upon frequent involvement of private detective agencies in discriminatory practices in marriage engagement, nor pointed out the fact that there are no legal controls prohibiting such investigative activities in marriage engagement.

C. Reasons for Raising Questions:

1) Among discriminatory practices against Buraku people, those in marriage engagement are most serious and deeply-rooted into peoples' minds. Even today, several young people from Buraku communities are still driven into killing themselves due to severe discriminatory practices in their marriage engagement. Even if they finally choose the option not to commit suicide, they hardly recover from the serious damage inflicted by such practices.

2) To exterminate such practices that bring about very serious results, it is required to take different approaches including educational programs and awareness-raising activities. Among others, it is vital and significant to prohibit discriminatory investigations conducted by private detective agencies on commercial basis under some legal controls. (Buraku discrimination is usually practiced on the basis of a person's family background. As it only matters the family origin, nobody can tell who are Buraku people unless one's origin is detected through discriminatory investigations into his/her residence, place of birth, and etc.)

3) At present, only five prefectural governments out of all 47 prefectures in Japan have ordinances restricting discriminatory investigations into family backgrounds. There is no national law prohibiting such practices.

Part II Article 13 Rights to Education

A. Questions:

a) Please show the population structure in the academic career among Buraku people aged over 15.

b) Please show the statistics on school enrollment among Buraku children, especially enrollment in the secondary school and colleges.

c) To solve unequal results coming out of above a) and b), what measures is the Government currently implementing, and what does it plan to do with this problem in future? ( particularly, about the scholarship program)

B. Government's Reports:

There is no description that is made on the basis of the actual situation of Buraku people.

C. Reasons for Raising Questions:

1) For the elimination of discrimination against Buraku people, it is vital to guarantee equal educational opportunities for Buraku children.

2) However, it is crystal-clear that there remains a gap between Buraku children and non-Buraku children in the school education. This fact is clearly indicated in the results of the '93 Government Survey. (See Appendix 1 which shows the population structure in the aspect of academic career)

3) Meanwhile, it is true that some improvement in the academic career has been achieved among Buraku children through a series of programs under the "Law on Special Measures" first enacted in 1969, especially the introduction of the scholarship program for Buraku children.

4) Yet, a gap is still there. For instance, at the secondary school level, there still exists a gap between the two by several points. Among Buraku children, many have quit school before graduation. Consequently, at the time of graduation, the gap increases to ten points. At the higher education level, less Buraku children go to college than non-Buraku children, as indicated with the comparison of 60 (Buraku children) to 100 (national average). (See Appendixes 2 and 3 for the above 3) and 4))

5) Consequently, the Government is required to continue aggressive measures to guarantee equal educational opportunities for Buraku children. However, with the scheduled expiry of the current "Law on Special Measures" by the end of March 2002, the special scholarship program for Buraku children will be scrapped. People from different sectors are becoming more concerned about this matter in a fear that it would adversely affect the educational standards of Buraku people.

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