Today the Anti-Hate Speech Bill was passed in the House of Representatives. Despite recognition of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1995, the Japanese government has continued to neglect the provision of a law which protects against racial discrimination. As a result, in recent years, incidents of hate speech have been suddenly on the rise. We have long called for a basic law which prevents racial discrimination based upon the principles of the International Convention.
But in its current state we can not refer to the Anti-Hate Speech Bill as a sufficient protection against racial discrimination, as, despite its “Reference to the spirit of the international convention designed to prevent all kinds of racial discrimination”, the text makes no utilization of the International Convention’s definition of “racial discrimination” and therefore the act can not be said to be based upon international standards.
We wish to point out the oversights of this law below.
Firstly, we take issue with the fact that the law restricts its application only to “those who are legally in residence in Japan”. This wording places those who do not have a valid visa in Japan in a vulnerable situation and contributes to the incitement of hate speech towards such individuals. Such wording creates a loop hole which allows hate speech slogans targeted at certain groups purely by adding “Illegal Immigrants from OOO” and so negates the very objective of the law. This element also works against the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s advisory to “Ensure that legislative guarantees against racial discrimination apply to non-citizens regardless of their immigration status, and that the implementation of legislation does not have a discriminatory effect on non-citizens” as outlined in paragraph 7 of the “General Advisory with Regard Racial Discrimination Against Non-citizens 30” (2004).
In addition to this by restricting the application of protections only to those “From outside of Japan” then this permits hate speech which is targeted against indigenous people’s such as Ainu and Okinawans, as well as those who have links with the discriminated “buraku” districts for example.
With the issue of the above restrictions on who is protected against “discriminatory speech and behavior” then the national and local government authorities must give particular consideration to the statement in Article 1 of the House of Representatives Supplementary Resolution which warns that “it is important to implement this law in the spirit of its objective and the spirit of the Japanese constitution and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and therefore should be recognized that any position which interprets the law as a permission of discriminatory acts against those otherwise stipulated in Article 2 of the law is a fundamental mistake.”
Furthermore, we contest the decision to make the Anti-Hate Speech Law only applicable to “discriminatory speech and behavior”. This is not a precise enough definition of what constitutes hate speech. As hate speech may be perpetrated in numerous forms we believe all must be done to “locate the current forms of hate speech” as outlined by the 4th article of the House of Representatives Supplementary Resolution.
Following on from this, the failure to clearly prohibit discriminatory speech and action under the Hate Speech Law, brings strong doubt as to the actual effectiveness of the law.
Having pointed out the defects in the Anti-Hate Speech Law we would still like to recognize that this has potential to be the first step towards the elimination of racial discrimination as it identifies that “Unjust discrimination reflected in speech and behavior” cause victims “to be subjected to numerous sufferings, whilst also contributing to the deep fragmenting of society” and declares that such “discriminatory speech and behavior are not acceptable”, and that their elimination is “an urgent task” Article 1. We therefore pay our respect to all of those involved in its progress.
Whilst we hope this law can be utilized in the fight against many forms of discrimination, in light of the clause of the supplementary resolution which states “In grappling with unjust discrimination” “consideration must be given to the situation met with after the implementation of the law, and respond to any necessity by paying further thought to its stipulations”, in order to greater fulfill its purpose we seek the amendment of this law, including the removal of the requisite that victims be confined to legal residents.
Finally, we wish to reassert the call for the enactment of a law based on the proposed Fundamental Law for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in order to bring the responsibilities of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to concrete implementation, seeking to protect the human rights of migrants and ethnic minorities and the prevention of racial discrimination against them, aiming towards a multi-ethnic, multicultural society.
24th May 2016
NPO Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan
The PDF version is also available. ⇒ SMJ’sStatementonAntiHatespeechBill.