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Draft of legal change banning corporal punishment by parents presented to ruling parties

TOKYO -- The government has presented to the ruling bloc an outline of its draft revisions to the child welfare and anti-child abuse legislation to ban corporal punishment against children by their parents and consider reviewing the Civil Code's parental right to discipline their children, as part of efforts to beef up measures to prevent child abuse.

The government showed the summary to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito on March 5, outlining the draft amendment to the Child Welfare Act and the Act on the Prevention, etc. of Child Abuse that will be submitted to the Diet during this session.

The move comes on the heels of the deaths of 5-year-old Yua Funato of Tokyo and 10-year-old Mia Kurihara of Chiba Prefecture east of the capital, both of whom died after physical punishment by their parents under the pretext of "discipline." These incidents led the government to recognize the need to include a provision for reviewing the controversial disciplinary right into the draft revisions.

The proposed amendment clearly stipulates a ban on corporal punishment against children by parents and others with parental authority over them, such as child welfare facility heads, saying, "Corporal punishment must not be administered in disciplining children." The proposal also calls for reviewing the Civil Code's disciplinary right five years after the revisions come into force and taking necessary measures. As revisions to the Civil Code require discussions at the Justice Ministry's Legislative Council, it is implausible that the draft amendment to the disciplinary right can make it to the ongoing Diet session.

Some members in the LDP, however, voiced criticism of the proposed revision, saying that waiting for five years before reviewing the disciplinary right was too long, during a joint meeting of the party's Health, Labor and Welfare Division and other bodies. In response, the Ministry of Justice suggested that it will consider the possibility of shortening the period.

The government is aiming to obtain Cabinet approval of the draft revisions in mid-March and ultimately enforce the amendment in April 2020 with some exceptions.

The proposed revisions also call for measures to improve the system at child consultation centers in dealing with abuse cases by separating staff tasked with taking abused children under temporary protective custody from other staff providing support to their parents at the same time. Furthermore, the draft amendment urges strengthening collaboration between child consultation centers and domestic violence counseling organizations as child abuse cases are often closely linked to domestic violence between spouses and other family members.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Harada, Medical Welfare News Department)

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