Multiple Discrimination is Addressed at 'Beijing + 5' in New York.

Parallel to the UN-sponsored Women 2000 Conference held in New York in June 2000, the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) organized a workshop focusing on multiple discrimination against minority women, at the Beijing Plus 5 Global Feminist Symposia (5-8 June 2000, City University of New York Graduate Center). In the workshop, women from minority communities from different countries shared their experiences with multiple discrimination in a hope to build a network of movements to connect racial and gender dimensions of discrimination.

The following are the reports presented by the Study Group on Multiple Discrimination (Japan).

Multiple Discrimination Against Minority Women in Japan

International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism Japan Committee (IMADR-JC )

Speaking of the liberation of women, we should say, first and foremost, that women can never be fully liberated unless we can take seriously the difficulties that minority women face and the complexity of multiple discrimination, because true liberation comes only when the women in the most difficult situation are freed from the yokes of oppression.

Take a look at the 12 important areas of concern as indicated in the Beijing Platform for Action, which constitute the core agenda of the Beijing + 5 Global Feminist Symposia. In all of these areas, it is minority women that are facing the toughest reality.

What about the literacy education? With the literacy rate reaching nearly 100% in almost every developed country, the remaining few percentages obviously belong, in most cases, to minorities, particularly minority women.

Poverty caused by discrimination and oppression against minorities helped perpetuate the reality in which deprivation of educational and economic opportunities pass on from one generation to another.

Economic globalization has widened economic gaps, both nationally and internationally, inflicting the heaviest damage upon the most vulnerable social group, that is people discriminated against.

Trafficking of indigenous women and children by transnational crime syndicates is intensifying on a tremendous scale. Post-cold war armed conflicts erupting in many parts of the world today have one distinctive feature: Women belonging to minorities and indigenous groups are increasingly becoming cannon fodders.

Women in minority groups are discriminated against because of their group identity but they are also sacrificed by gender discrimination. Thus their ordeal and agony are manifold.

Nevertheless, this problem has been sidelined for many years within the UN-centered human rights regime.

Let us recall the Forward Looking Strategies for 2000 that was adopted in 1985 in Nairobi. The paper emphasized among others additional strategies and measures for improvement of women who carry special difficulties because of their particular circumstances, other than problems common to women. But have the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies been implemented to the extent that satisfied our expectations ?

A host of international human rights standards have been in place, each categorizing groups to protect. However, when it comes to enforcement, most conventions which are basically single issue-oriented often fail to deal with the problems of people who can be categorized as with multiple identities. For example, it is only recent that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the monitoring body of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, recognized the necessity of applying the gender perspective when it reviews country reports of the states parties. Even in the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, it cannot be said that multiple discrimination against minority women is treated in a way that matches the gravity it carries. Admittedly issues involving women in developing countries, women under military conflicts and young girls are often taken up at UN fora, but not the cases of women belonging to minorities in both developed and developing countries.

The same thing can be said about the Japanese government. Japan's report which was submitted to the UN in April, 1999 in connection with the Beijing Platform for Action, limited itself to describing the situation of women with the Japanese nationality, disregarding the reality of foreign women legally or illegally living in Japan, particularly migrant women workers.

Many NGOs correctly pointed out in their joint report released in August 1999 that the national action plan which the government came up with to comply with the Beijing Platform for Action failed to address the issues of minority women.

On the other hand, minority women themselves have been active on the international scene since 1980s. Among them most dynamic were women belonging to indigenous peoples and women with disabilities. In 1993, the Asian Indigenous Women's Network organized a conference in Baguio, the Philippines, in which Ainu women participated along with a Buraku woman as an observer. Later, members of the Network joined indigenous women around the world when the Beijing Conference was held in 1995. There they adopted the Beijing Indigenous Women's Declaration, aiming to enrich the Peking Action Principles from the viewpoint of indigenous women.

The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism―Japan Committee, established in 1990, is an organization combating discrimination and defending human rights. It is made up of major minority groups in Japan, namely Burakumin, Ainu, Korean residents and people with disabilities. The organization is supported by people of all walks of life including women activists, religious leaders, teachers and others.

In July 1994, IMADR-JC held the Osaka Gathering of Minority and Indigenous Women. In October 1994 our members attended the workshop on minorities at the First East Asian Women's Forum held in Japan, as part of regional preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. In the NGO forum in Peking, IMADR-JC held a workshop of minority and indigenous women, and obtained case reports from many participants. The forum provided with us the first occasion on the international level to publicize the issues minority women are facing in Japan and to establish relations with other minority groups. However, we were unsuccessful in continuing and consolidating this newborn partnership among world minority women.

At the end of 1999 IMADR-JC called on a number of NGOs to create the Network Against Multiple Discrimination. Its objectives are: to do research on the forms of multiple discrimination against minority women; to formulate measures to eliminate the discrimination; and to educate the public on the issue. Since it was launched, the Network held six study meetings. The paper distributed among the participants includes summarized reports on multiple discrimination against women in minority groups such as Ainu, Buraku, Korean residents, homeless people, Okinawans, and women with disabilities.

Here we would like to share with you some facts and analyses presented in those study meetings.

Any person belonging to minority groups in Japan always find it difficult to live as "individuals" because the mainstream society is intolerant of minorities. So they rely on families and communities as shelters to protect themselves from the scourge of discrimination. But those same families and communities often do disservice to women. This perception is commonly held by Ainu, Buraku, Okinawan and Korean women.

Minority women are entrapped by the double helix of discrimination: On one hand they are being ostracized by the mainstream people and on the other being discriminated against by their own group members. Behind this exist patriarchy, chauvinism and assimilationism that are entrenched in this society. Therefore minority women are often dissuaded from speaking out their own cause.

Just as every minority group has different sub-groups within, so do minority women. Therefore, instead of taking them en masse, we should try to look into diversified needs these women express.

The Network Against Multiple Discrimination has not completed its task yet. We will continue more detailed research and intensive discussion.

Women who are sensitive to gender discrimination sometimes show indifference to other forms of discrimination. Women in the mainstream know little about what women in minority groups want. The same thing can be said about minority women. They don't know exactly what problems other minority women are facing. Nonetheless more women in the mainstream are becoming increasingly aware of the situation of minority women. So women in minority groups should try to make themselves heard on the international level.

After five years of consistent efforts to highlight the issue of multiple discrimination against minority women following the Beijing Conference, these efforts are now paying off. This year, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted the first general comment on the gender aspect, in which it acknowledged that racial discrimination often has more negative impacts on women, and that closer attention should be given to the situation of women.

NGOs around the world are demanding that multiple discrimination should be identified as one of the agenda of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance which is to be held August 2001 in South Africa.

Lastly, it is our belief that this Beijing +5 Global Feminist Symposia should serve as a springboard to accelerate international efforts to bring the World Conference against Racism to success. Joining this worldwide endeavor, we will keep up our efforts to solidify the network we have built and to forge partnership with women in the mainstream by exploring every possible avenue including the Network Against Multiple Discrimination.


  1. To include the issue of multiple discrimination in the agenda of the 2001 World Conference against Racism to highlight the plight of minority women
  2. To urge the United Nations and regional inter-governmental institutions to do analytical research on the situation of minority women, and to formulate measures to uplift their conditions, with particular emphasis on the drafting of guidelines and general comments on the interplay of racism and gender by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and the compilation of a survey report on the situation of minority women by the Special Rapporteur on the Violence against Women
  3. To encourage both national and local governments to collect and collate the data regarding the situation of minority women which should include hard facts about the plight of these women as well as the statistics; to make national and local governments accountable for the disclosure of the statistical data and survey methods
  4. To demand all governments to fulfill what they have promised for the rights of minority women in the Beijing Platform for Action, and to support non-governmental organizations whose objective is to monitor the governments' compliance with the Platform
  5. To request national governments to incorporate into their national action plans of and after 2001 measures to eliminate discrimination against minority women
  6. To call upon municipal governments to make necessary adjustments so that the ordinances can deal with the issues of multiple discrimination
  7. To urge both national and local governments to set up bodies to support the empowerment of minority women, and to shift more resources in the government programs for women to the issue of minority women
  8. To ensure that women occupy 30% of the decision-making bodies of all human rights groups
  9. To promote programs to raise the sensitivity of minority men to the issue of minority women

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