TOKYO -- Amendments to the child welfare and anti-child abuse legislation would explicitly ban corporal punishment against children by their parents, according to an outline of the planned revisions that the Mainichi Shimbun has obtained.
Moreover, the proposed revisions would guarantee children's right to freely express their opinions to ensure that their intentions are reflected in child consultation centers' and other relevant organizations' responses to abuse.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will approve the bills to revise the Child Welfare Act and the Act on the Prevention, etc. of Child Abuse, which would place emphasis on the protection of children's rights, as early as mid-March.
As the Civil Code guarantees parents' right to discipline their children, attention had been focused on whether a clause explicitly prohibiting corporal punishment by parents would be incorporated in the legislation.
When relevant laws were amended in 2016, the government stopped short of seeking to specifically ban corporal punishment. However, the government is now poised to incorporate a clause banning such punishment following the deaths of two girls -- Mia Kurihara, 10, of Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and Yua Funado, 5, of Tokyo -- after being allegedly abused by their parents under the pretext of discipline.
The government is exploring the possibility of the ban covering not only parents but also child welfare facility heads and foster parents who also have the right to discipline children under their supervision.
Children's right to express their opinions freely on whether they should enter foster facilities and other matters is guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In many cases in Japan, however, relevant organizations make such decisions based on the opinions of children's parents.
Amended legislation would state that the government will consider strengthening the system to protect children's rights, such as thoroughly listening to the opinions of children and appointing experts and establishing organizations specializing in expressing infants' opinions on their behalf.
The government will also incorporate provisions calling for appointing police officers and retired officers to increase the authority of child consultation centers to place children under protection from their abusive parents.
The revisions would require core cities and Tokyo's 23 wards to make efforts to establish child consultation centers, in response to opinions that the network of such centers meant to protect children is not sufficient.
Furthermore, after the Noda Municipal Board of Education in Chiba Prefecture handed over a copy of a school questionnaire, in which Mia Kurihara complained that she had been subjected to abuse at home, to her father after giving in to his coercive attitude, employees at schools and child welfare facilities would now be legally given a confidentiality obligation.
(Japanese original by Ai Yokota, Medical Welfare News Department)