One of Tokyo’s neighbors may become the first place in Japan to enact punishment for hate speech.

A thick-skinned “Haters gonna hate” attitude can be an effective way of keeping petty jabs from getting under your skin, but many would argue it’s not the right stance for governments to take regarding racial discrimination. Be that as it may, it wasn’t until 2016 that Japan’s Diet passed a nationwide law outlawing hate speech.

This was really a law in name only, though, since the legislation included no punishment for offenders. By relying on people to refrain from hate speech because it’s not nice, it didn’t really change anything, because people engaging in hate speech and people concerned about being nice are generally two non-overlapping demographics.

However, while the national law remains toothless, the city of Kawasaki, which borders Tokyo on its southern side, is moving ahead with its own anti-hate speech initiative. On November 25, a bill was introduced at a Kawasaki city council meeting that not only makes the practice illegal, but also inflicts a punishment more severe than branding someone a meanie.

Under the proposed law, violators making unjust discriminatory statements in public areas (such as parks or streets) about people from a different country or region will first be cautioned by police. A second offense will result in an official cease and desist order, and a third will result in a fine of up to 500,000 yen (US$4,630). In addition to hate speech related to ethnicity or nationality, the law also covers discriminatory statements about people based on physical/mental disabilities or sexual orientation.

Current reports do not specify whether the count up to the third, fineable offense must all relate to the same incident, or if the tally is a permanent, continuing one. In either case, however, if the law is enacted it would be the first anti-hate law in Japan to include criminal punishment for offenders. “To promote the development of a city in which none of our residents are unjustly discriminated against,” said Kawasaki mayor Norihiko Fukuda in a statement, “we will be attempting, with the consent of the people, to enact this ordinance and increase the civility of dialogue.”

The council is expected to vote on the law at a meeting next month, and if passed, would most likely go into effect no sooner than next spring, when Japanese fiscal/political calendars generally begin.

Source: Chunichi Nippo via Yahoo! Japan News, NHK News Web
Top image: Pakutaso
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