This book offers a most up-to-date account of the changes in women's, children's, and minority rights in Japan in the past decade. Since the late 1990s, several legal and political changes took place in Japan including the revision of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, the legalization of the pill, the first Basic Law on Gender Equality, the Child Prostitution and Pornography Prohibition Law, the Child Abuse Prevention Law, the Anti-Stalking Law, the Law to Promote Human Rights Education, and finally the Domestic Violence Prevention Law. Predominant conceptions of the Japanese state, focusing on bureaucratic dominance, party politics, and interest groups, fail to explain these extensive changes.
This study ties the global to the local and examines how Japanese nongovernmental networks have been able to effect change through issue reframing, advocacy education, and leverage politics. This book situates the Japanese state in a larger international community and looks at the impact of global human rights norms on civil society development. Few international norm studies are precise on the actual mechanisms of diffusion on the ground. This book analyzes the impact of discourses from four world conferences in the 1990s, the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, and the 1996 First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Stockholm on the redefinition of five issues of sexuality in Japan, the pill, sexual harassment, military sexual slavery, domestic violence, and child prostitution. It further provides a contrasting case of the limited advancement of minority rights for Burakumin, Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans, and migrant workers in Japan. The absence of global frames on caste discrimination, indigenous peoples' rights, reparation for colonization and slavery, as well as migrants' rights makes leverage politics difficult despite substantial grassroots mobilization.
Through examining gender, children, and minority issues, this study discusses the tensions between universalism and cultural relativism within the human rights and feminism debates in Japan. Instead of assuming traditional Japanese culture being at odds with the individualistic and legalistic orientation of international human rights standards, this book looks at how Japanese civil society as well as state actors grapple with the rise of the individual, a new saliency of the law in solving conflicts, the emergence of horizontal networks of cooperation, and the practice of postnational citizenship.