JapanIn Japan, “No dinner for you! Go to your room!” for Misbehaving Children Might Become a Crime in the Near Future

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Government ministry rules state that “any corporal punishment, non matter how light, is prohibited.”

In the spring of this year, the Japanese Prime Minister and his top ministers, who comprise the Cabinet, were worried about an increase in child abuse. This increase is backed up by statistics. They decided to introduce a law to prohibit parents from physically punishing their children (e.g. hitting, spanking, etc.). The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has now, as of this week, published a draft of its rules. Its Investigative “Commission for the Advancement of Child-Rearing Without Corporal Punishment” put it together.

The rules are not just about hitting, beating, or spanking children. It goes beyond that to lighter, less potentially harmful forms of corporal punishment. According to the draft, it is considered physical punishment and therefore prohibited if “[the] punishment inflicts physical pain or discomfort.” The draft also emphasizes that “any corporal punishment, no matter how light, is prohibited,” explaining that the ban applies “even if the corporal punishment is enacted with the intent of disciplining the child.”

Concrete instances in which punishing a child physically are prohibited by the law (at this point, the draft of the law) extend to:

  • A parent warns his or her child, but the child does not listen. Therefore, the parent slaps the child’s cheek.
  • A child hits his or her friend. Therefore, the parent hits him or her likewise.
  • A child steals another’s possession. Therefore, the parents gives him or her a spanking on the buttocks.

However, the surprising thing for some is that some acts that do not involve hitting, kicking, etc., in which the parent does not actually touch the child, are included, as well. These are not direct violations of “inflicting physical pain or discomfort,” but rather, indirect violations.

  • A child makes fun of somebody. Therefore, the parent forces them to kneel on the floor for a long time, as punishment (正座, seiza).
  • A child does not do his or her homework. Therefore, the parent forces the child to go to his/her room, not to come out until the morning, without eating.

Not only physical punishment, according to the draft of the law, that will be the basic outline of the Amended Child Abuse Prevention Act, but also non-physical forms of punishment and victimization will be things that the new law will defend children against. For example, according to the draft, it will become unlawful for an angry mother or father to exclaim “I wish you’d never been born.” This is seen as the same as speaking out against a minor’s right to live. It is a violation of the minor’s individual human rights.

However, the commission stressed that parents still have the right to discipline their children. The commission is not attempting to do away with that. It is okay to scold a child. It is also permissable to restrain a child physically to protect others, or himself/herself. The minister wants parents to understand the underlying emotions of the child from the child’s perspective. It hopes that once they do, they can guide the child on a better, more positive path. One way to accomplish this is by prohibiting physical punishment, and severe verbal abuse.

The rules are not yet final. However, the Amended Child Abuse Prevention Act is scheduled to become effective in the spring of 2020.