Guidelines from ministry say “any corporal punishment, no matter how light, is prohibited.”

Back in the spring, the Cabinet of Japan (which consists of the prime minister and a number of other high-ranking ministers), citing increasing child abuse statistics, introduced a bill to ban corporal punishment by parents. This week, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare released its drafted guidelines for the new legislation, as put together by its Investigative Commission for the Advancement of Child-rearing without Corporal Punishment.

The Ministry’s guidelines go beyond simply prohibiting parents from smacking their kids up if they feel the young ones deserve it. The draft, which defines corporal punishment as “punishment that inflicts physical pain or discomfort,” also stresses that “any corporal punishment, no matter how light, is prohibited,” clarifying that the prohibition exists “even if the corporal punishment is enacted with the intent of disciplining the child.”

Specific examples of corporal punishment mentioned in the draft include:
I warned my child, but they didn’t listen, so I slapped them on the cheek.
● My child hit their friend, so I hit them in the same way.
● My child stole something that belonged to someone else, so I spanked their backside.

However, even acts that ordinarily wouldn’t be construed as direct violence fall under the ministry’s criteria of “inflicting physical pain or discomfort,” as the draft would also make these scenarios illegal:
My child teased someone, so I made them kneel on the floor Japanese seiza-style for an extended time.
● My child didn’t do their homework, so I sent them to bed without dinner.

In addition to corporal punishment, the draft, which is to be the framework of an Amended Child Abuse Prevention Act, also seeks to protect children from emotional torment from their parents. The guidelines specifically mention that it would be illegal for a frustrated parent to say to their child “I wish you’d never been born,” under the rationale that this is equivalent to denying the child’s right to exist, and thus an infringement upon the child’s personal rights.

The commission did emphasize, though, that it is not trying to eliminate parents’ right to discipline their children. Verbal admonition of the child’s conduct is still allowed, as is physical restraint in order to protect the child or others from danger. By taking corporal punishment and psychologically damaging statements out of the arsenal, however, the ministry hopes to encourage parents to better understand their children’s emotions and perspective, and to foster better communication which will lead to more positive behavior.

While the guidelines are yet to be finalized, the Amended Child Abuse Prevention Act is expected to go into effect next spring.

Source: Nihon Keizai Shimbun via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
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