The National Diet (Parliament) of Japan enacted the law on the elimination of hate speech in mid-2016. The law, Act on the Promotion of Efforts to Eliminate Unfair Discriminatory Speech and Behavior against Persons Originating from Outside Japan, took effect on 3 June 2016. The words “unfair discriminatory speech and behavior against persons originating from outside Japan” are considered to be equivalent to what is known as “hate speech” as indicated in the website of Japan’s Ministry of Justice.1
Rationale of the Law
The rationale for the enactment of the law is explained as follows:2
In recent years in Japan, unfair discriminatory speech and behavior are being practiced to incite the exclusion of persons and their descendants, who are residing lawfully in Japan, from local communities in our country by reason of such persons originating from a country or region other than Japan, therefore imposing tremendous pain and suffering on such persons and their descendants, and causing serious rifts in the local community.
Obviously, such unfair discriminatory speech and behavior should not exist, and tolerating such a situation is not permissible in light of Japan’s position in the international community.
It is therefore declared that such unfair discriminatory speech and behavior will not be tolerated, and, accordingly, this Act is to be enacted to spread awareness among the general public and to promote their understanding and cooperation through further human rights education and awareness-raising activities, and to strengthen efforts to eliminate unfair discriminatory speech and behavior.
Definition of Hate Speech
Article 2 of the law provides the definition of hate speech:
In this Act, “unfair discriminatory speech and behavior against persons originating from outside Japan” shall mean unfair discriminatory speech and behavior to incite the exclusion of persons originating exclusively from a country or region other than Japan or their descendants and who are lawfully residing in Japan (hereinafter referred to in this Article as “persons originating from outside Japan”) from the local community by reason of such persons originating from a country or region other than Japan, such as openly announcing to the effect of harming the life, body, freedom, reputation or property of, or to significantly insult, persons originating from outside Japan with the objective of encouraging or inducing discriminatory feelings against such persons originating from outside Japan.
The reference to non-Japanese residents covers Korean residents who have been the target of hate speech activities during the last few years.
Main Provisions of the Law
The main contents of the law are on the “basic principles for efforts towards the elimination [of hate speech], and to clarify the responsibilities of the national government, etc., as well as to set out and promote the basic measures.” Thus the remaining provisions of the law deal with the following matters:
a. Understanding of the general public of the need to eliminate hate speech and the public role in this task;
b. Responsibilities of the national and local governments on taking measures to eliminate hate speech;
c. Maintenance of consultation and development of the “necessary system so as to prevent and resolve disputes in this regard;”
d. Implementation of educational and awareness-raising activities; and
e. Review of measures undertaken against hate speech.
For the full text of the law, please visit the website of the Ministry of Justice of Japan.
1 Ministry of Justice: www.moj.go.jp/ENGLISH/m_jinken04_00001.html.
2 The text of the law used in this article is based on the English version of the law made available by Japan’s Ministry of Justice. The Ministry explains that this English version is a “provisional translation” and suggests referring to the original text written in Japanese.