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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

HAVE YOUR SAY

Punishing foreigners, exonerating Japanese?

Following are some readers' responses to Debito Arudou's March 24 Zeit Gist article, "Punishing foreigners, exonerating Japanese":

Citizens can effect change

It is all well and good to complain and to say that certain judgments by the courts are simply wrong. However, in order to make fundamental changes in any legal system, legislative change and the mandate of the people is required.

The problem with legislative change is that many foreigners in Japan are denied the right to vote in elections due to their status as alien noncitizens. Therefore it should fall upon those with the right to vote — i.e. Japanese spouses of noncitizen foreigners and their friends and family — to lobby government for change if they are unhappy with the present legal system.

Perhaps it's trite to say, but one would think legal education as to the basic rights and liberties that every person, noncitizen or not, can expect and enjoy wouldn't be a bad idea and should be encouraged. Perhaps a booklet prepared in cooperation with the Justice Ministry would be in order. After all, in order to play a game properly, one must first know the rules.

ANTHONY OLSEN

Gold Coast, Australia

Racism deep and profound

What would happen to a gaijin doctor who lost a patient due to professional negligence? A suspended sentence or jail time? Loss of medical license? What?

What would happen to a gaijin who violently restrained an obnoxious Japanese drunk and killed the damn fool? Prison time, for sure.

A gaijin who tossed the body of a badly beaten Japanese woman into a bathtub and then filled it with sand? Evidence suggesting that the gaijin might have raped and tortured the dead woman? Uh, the police would subject said gaijin to hours and hours of horrific interrogation, Amnesty International be damned.

Or a gaijin who invites an attractive Japanese bar hostess to his private bachelor pad, then proceeds to give her a dose of sleeping pills in an alcoholic drink, attempts to rape her and then kills her? Uh, hanging for sure.

What would happen to a gaijin who habitually assaults Japanese women on Tokyo's crowded trains? If caught, time in jail or worse. But if a nicely dressed salaryman assaults gaijin women, he won't even be detained. The police will accuse the gaijin woman of trying to entrap the poor man. I was witness to such a crime on the Odakyu Line one morning. The Canadian female victim told me to let the pervert flee the scene since the police would only humiliate her if she reported the crime.

Racism in Japan is indeed "deep and profound."

ROBERT McKINNEY

Tokyo

Foreign-on-foreign crime

Debito Arudou raises some worrying issues in his latest column. While I am familiar with Mr. Arudou's work and agree with much of it, this article holds special resonance with me.

Although I had heard about the negligence of Japanese police toward non-Japanese citizens for years, I was surprised nonetheless when it unexpectedly affected me. A few months ago I was attacked for being gay by a Canadian coworker of my boyfriend's at a function held by the foreign-owned English school they both taught at. When my boyfriend tried to speak to his employers about the incident, they banned me from future events for "making people uncomfortable" and eventually coerced him into quitting.

It was at this point that I decided to go to the police. Although I spoke with an officer who seemed compassionate, he made it clear that nothing would be done in my case because, despite visible bruises on my face and neck, it was foreign-on-foreign crime, and the Japanese legal system couldn't be bothered to deal with it.

I am sure other people will accuse Mr. Arudou of cherry-picking examples or being gratuitously negative, but I applaud him for pointing out an issue that leaves far too many people without a voice.

BEN MILAM

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