ヘイト法案 反差別の姿勢を明確に

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 27
EDITORIAL: Thorough talks needed to block abuse of planned hate speech law
(社説)ヘイト法案 反差別の姿勢を明確に
A bill to outlaw hate speech, sponsored by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, is currently under deliberation in the Upper House Legal Affairs Committee.

With the opposition camp having already presented a similar bill to the Diet last year, all Japanese political parties are at least in agreement that legislative measures must be taken to eliminate hate speech, which fans vile discrimination against certain ethnic groups.

But legal scholars are strongly concerned that such legislation could threaten freedom of expression depending on how it is enforced. Indeed, determining the conditions of enforcement will be a difficult and complex matter.

However, hate speech has shown no signs of abating in recent years. In a lawsuit against a citizens group that attacked the Tokushima prefectural union of teachers for donating money to a Korean school, the Takamatsu High Court on April 25 ruled that the group’s activities “represented an attitude of racial discrimination,” and it ordered the group to pay damages to the teachers’ union.

Hate-filled invectives against minorities, such as “get out of Japan,” are uttered nationwide. These human rights violations cannot be allowed to continue. We definitely believe the time has come to take some sort of legislative action.

Neither the ruling coalition-sponsored bill nor its opposition counterpart contains punitive provisions against offenders. While we would like both bills to clearly spell out that discrimination can never be condoned as a matter of basic human decency, we also believe that utmost care must be taken to ensure the legislation will not infringe upon freedom of expression.

The United Nations considers it a problem that Japan, which ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 21 years ago, still has no laws against racial discrimination. It has now become Japan’s obligation to the international community to declare a firm stance against discrimination of any sort against any race or nationality.

We hope the ruling and opposition parties will set aside their petty political interests and forge a consensus after thoroughly debating the issue and with complete transparency, from the standpoint of defending universal human rights.

Diet deliberations in the days ahead are expected to focus on the LDP-Komeito bill. But there are some problems with the legislation.

For instance, the bill defines victims of discrimination as “non-Japanese-born people and their descendants.” But the indigenous Ainu people of Japan have been subjected to discrimination. To make this right, we believe the ruling coalition should adopt the opposition-sponsored bill’s broader definition of victims as “non-Japanese races and ethnic groups.”

Another problem we see with the LDP-Komeito bill is that it will apply only to “legal aliens residing in Japan.” We find this hard to comprehend.

Discrimination in itself has nothing to do with the victim’s residency status. If this is left uncorrected, this bill could hurt those who are in the process of applying for refugee status.

In the past, the LDP manifested its intent to manipulate the hate speech issue to its own convenience. LDP legislators made statements hinting at applying hate speech legislation against anti-U.S. base activists and protesters opposed to nuclear power generation.

Such abuse of the law by politicians is exactly what we fear.

For the law to fully serve its intended purpose of eliminating all racial and ethnic discrimination, its non-arbitrary and appropriate enforcement must be guaranteed. And thorough discussion is also needed on how to monitor the enforcement of this law.

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