Critics still likely to find problems with legislation.

Japanese society is, for the most part, extremely polite. However, in part because aggressive, confrontational statements are generally frowned up by the general population, the government has done little to get involved with regulation of what many Western countries would classify as hate speech.

Last May, Japan’s Diet passed its first anti-hate speech law. But while some applauded the move, it was also criticized by some as a hollow, ineffectual gesture for a number of reasons. One criticism lobbed against the legislation was that it didn’t do enough to define what qualifies as “hate speech,” which caused some 70 governmental institutions scattered across 23 of Japan’s prefectures to ask for greater clarification from the Ministry of Justice.

In response, the ministry has given a handful of concrete examples of statements that it feels fall under the sort of “unjust discriminatory behavior” the anti-hate speech law hopes to curb. Among the examples given by the ministry are “Go back to your home country” and “Kill people [from a certain nation/of a certain ethnicity].”

The ministry’s statement came following demands for a more distinct definition of hate speech by representatives from cities including Kawasaki, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Fukuoka, who said that the imprecise wording of the law is making it difficult for them to judge whether statements by certain groups and individuals are protected by the free speech clauses of Japan’s constitution, and by extension whether the cities can prohibit them from using public facilities and spaces for assemblies and demonstrations.

“Get out of this town” was also given as an example of hate speech by the ministry. The organization also said that statements such as “People [of a certain nationality/ethnicity] view Japan with hostility” could also be considered hate speech, if they are made with the clear intent of fostering an attitude of discriminatory exclusion.

However, the ministry’s examples of hate speech were not accompanied by any additional information on what punishment can or must accompany violations of the anti-hate speech law. In its current form, the Japanese vocabulary used in the wording of the law can be interpreted as labeling hate speech either “unforgiveable,” in the sense of being morally reprehensible, or “not allowed,” which would imply illegality. With no specific penalties laid out in the legislation, though, the law’s actual effectiveness in stopping discriminatory speech remains severely limited, and those who think the Japanese government should be more actively addressing the issue likely feel that while specified examples of hate speech are a necessary starting point, far more work still needs to be done.

Sources: Nihon Keizai Shimbun via Jin, Japan Times
Top image: Ministry of Justice