State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Japan
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||11 March 2008|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Japan, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a7eae9c.html [accessed 5 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Minorities make up 1.5 per cent of Japan's population and include the Buraku people – a caste-like minority among ethnic Japanese. The Buraku are descendants of outcast populations from feudal days who were perceived to undertake 'polluting acts' under Buddhist and Shintoist beliefs due to their assigned social functions of slaughtering animals and executing criminals. Other minorities are the Ainu and the people of Okinawa; and people from and descendants of people from the former Japanese colonies of Korea and China. Japan has traditionally considered itself to be ethnically homogeneous yet NGOs continued to claim in 2007 that minorities face harsh discrimination and are deprived of their distinct cultures.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) have previously expressed their concern at the government's lack of data on the ethnic composition of the Japanese population, and on economic and social indicators reflecting the situation of minorities. Both Committees have requested that such data be provided, disaggregated by gender and national and ethnic group, and that data on the exposure to violence of minority women should be included. CEDAW has also requested data on the education, employment, social welfare and health status of minority women. However, the Japanese government has failed to act on these requests to date.
In response, minority women took the initiative themselves, with a coalition of Ainu, Buraku and minority Korean women working together in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to draw up and implement surveys containing a common set of 41 questions covering the areas of education, employment, social welfare, health status and exposure to violence, in addition to further questions specific to the particular circumstances of each group.
In September 2007 the results of these surveys, together with proposals for policies to address the issues faced by minority women, were presented to government representatives, including the Gender Equality Bureau, which is charged with formulating national policy on gender equality. Survey results highlighted issues such as the low levels of post-compulsory education for Ainu women, particularly those over 40 years of age; higher than average levels of reliance on public welfare among those in the Buraku community; and the importance to Korean minority women of continuing to practise traditional Korean rituals for ethnic and cultural solidarity. All groups proposed to the government the introduction of legislation prohibiting discrimination, implementation of a government survey of minority women, policies reflecting the views of minority women, ongoing consultative processes between government and minority women, facilitation of the participation of minority women in decision-making bodies, and respect for and promotion of minority culture.