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Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Minorities call for strong antidiscrimination legislation

Staff writer

Representatives and supporters of minority groups issued a united call Tuesday for a robust antidiscrimination law.

The joint statement, led by the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism Japan Committee, was announced by 71 groups active in human and minority rights in Japan.

The statement says that Japan's antiterrorism measures have marginalized minorities, including the Ainu, the people of Okinawa, the "burakumin," and Korean and Chinese residents of Japan as well as other foreigners and migrants.

The Ainu are indigenous to northern Japan, and the buraku (hamlet) people are descendents of a now-abolished outcast class that dated back to feudal times.

"These socially invisible minorities have been kept apart from the majority, and the state has taken advantage of this split to implement its security measures and maintain its authority," the statement says.

At a meeting in the Upper House Diet Members' Office Building, Shigeyuki Kumisaka, president of the Buraku Liberation League, stressed that more than a law to prevent discrimination is needed. There should also be a legal framework to provide relief for victimized individuals and groups, while penalizing offenders.

The move comes after Doudou Diene, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related tolerance, submitted a report on racial discrimination in Japan to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in January.

At Tuesday's meeting, Aku Sawai of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido pointed out that there are currently no Ainu in the Diet and suggested Japan follow the example of New Zealand, which has special seats in its parliament for native Maoris.

Several Diet members attended the meeting, including Toru Matsuoka of the Democratic Party of Japan, who said he has burakumin roots and has been active in pushing for greater minority rights.

"In Japan, there are various (types of) discrimination against minorities, including the buraku people," Matsuoka stressed. "I believe the government is shying away from acknowledging such issues."

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The Japan Times

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