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Editorial: Online Japanese outcast communities list is intolerable discrimination promotion

The Tokyo District Court has ruled it unlawful that a publisher released online a list of location names relating to communities historically discriminated against in Japan. The court banned the publication of a related book and the list's posting online, and ordered the company pay compensation.

    Discrimination against Buraku outcast communities is a deep-rooted problem. The publication of communities' place names could promote discrimination, and the publisher fully deserves the ruling.

    In 2016, the publisher announced its plans to release a book, and posted its content online. The ruling pointed out that people's home addresses and registered domiciles could be checked against the list released by the publisher, thereby leading to possible discrimination against people from outcast communities and violation of their privacy.

    While the defendant insisted the suspension of the book's publication and the list's posting constrains its freedom of research and expression, the claim was dismissed over the publication "obviously having no purpose for the public interest."

    However, the court did not entirely ban the online posting of the list, on the grounds that some plaintiffs have made their hometowns public. This decision is questionable as it lacks consideration for people from the listed communities who did not join the lawsuit.

    Place-name lists of Buraku communities were also a social issue in the 1970s. More than 200 companies purchased books carrying the lists to use them in background checks when hiring workers.

    The latest case could cause far more serious damage, as information made available online is accessible to anyone and difficult to delete once it spreads.

    In fact, there has been a spate of reported cases of people finding the location list online and inquiring with local governments as to whether the areas actually are Buraku communities. Countless discriminatory comments and other posts online have been made in relation to the list.

    The Ministry of Justice has indicated its position that making posts naming specific areas as discriminated communities is inexcusable. The ministry is urged to create a system where such posts can be quickly deleted in collaboration with internet providers and site operators.

    After the problem surfaced, a law to promote elimination of discrimination against Buraku communities was instituted at the end of 2016. The law calls for the central and local governments to enhance counseling systems and promote education and awareness building regarding the issue, but does not contain stipulations banning discrimination against outcast communities.

    Even today, discrimination against people from Buraku communities when it comes to marriage and other circumstances has been reported. In a public awareness survey in 2019, 15.8% of respondents said they would be concerned if their partners or prospective spouses were from discriminated communities.

    Discrimination based on places of origin is never acceptable. Let us renew our resolve to tackle the issue across society and eradicate such discrimination once and for all.

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