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Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008

Japan defends steps to end discrimination


Staff writer

OSAKA — In a new report to the United Nations, the government outlines the situation of ethnic minorities and foreign residents in Japan, claiming it has made "every conceivable" effort over the past several years to eliminate racial discrimination.

Occasionally sounding on the defensive, the report, released Friday, sidesteps the issue of a comprehensive law prohibiting discrimination between individuals.

Human rights groups and Doudou Diene, the U.N. special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, have called for the passage of a law clearly against racism and xenophobia, as well as the establishment of an independent national human rights monitoring body.

The government has long held that Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law, makes any antidiscrimination legislation superfluous, a point reiterated in the report.

"Japan has taken every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination," the report's introduction says, later adding that apartheid is unknown in Japan.

The report covers the situation of the Ainu, Korean residents and other foreigners. The government noted that there were an estimated 23,782 Ainu in 2006.

A Hokkaido Prefectural Government survey in 2006 showed 93.5 percent of Ainu youths go on to high school, and 17.4 percent go on to university, an improvement from recent years but below the national average, in which 98.3 percent of all youths enter high school. About 38 percent of all people who live in municipalities where Ainu reside go on to university, the survey noted.

About 30 percent of Hokkaido's Ainu said they had experienced discrimination at school, in job interviews or when getting married, or that they knew of someone who had experienced such discrimination, the same survey indicated.

The report to the U.N. notes the Diet's passage of a resolution in June recognizing the Ainu, and that the government has set up an advisory panel to discuss Ainu policies.



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