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Japan: Child Abuse Prevention Law Amended

      On 25 May 2007, the amendments to the Child Abuse Prevention Law and the Child Welfare Law[Japanese] were adopted at the plenary session of the House of Councilors. The draft amendments had been submitted by the House of Representatives Special Committee on Youth Issues, with a view to reinforcing possible administrative measures in the context of the increase in the number of cases of child abuse and neglect.
      The Child Abuse Prevention Law of 2000 had been amended in 2004, leading to the expanded definitions of child abuse and neglect. As a result of the amendments, failure on the part of the guardian to protect his/her child from perpetrators who live with them falls under the definition of neglect; indirect victimization through witnessing domestic violence is also covered. Other new provisions were introduced as well, including on assistance by the police and responsibilities on the part of municipal authorities. This could not put an end to the occurrence of serious cases, however. The relevant guidelines were revised[Japanese] in January 2007, with a view to ensuring the confirmation of victims' safety and improved collaboration among the relevant bodies. Through the revisions, it was indicated that victims' safety should possibly be confirmed within 48 hours after receiving reports; that regular follow-up should be carried out if the child continues to stay at home; and that information-sharing should be promoted among the relevant bodies.
      The amended Law provides for the obligation of municipal authorities or the head of a local welfare office to "take necessary measures", instead of "seek", to confirm the victim's safety. In addition, the governor of a prefecture is empowered to summon the guardian with his/her child in suspected cases of abuse and neglect as well as to conduct on-site inspections if the guardian does not comply with the summons. If the on-site inspection is refused, the officers of a child guidance center may forcefully enter the home, in order to confirm and ensure the child's safety, with the permission from the judge of the family court or the summary court.
      In case the guardian does not comply with official recommendations, the child may be taken into temporary protective custody if necessary. The amended Law also provides for restrictions on visit to and correspondence with the child under protective custody in an institution; the governor may issue a no contact order to the guardian in order to keep him/her away from the child.

· Draft partial amendments to the Child Abuse Prevention Law and the Child Welfare Law (House of Representatives) [Japanese]
· On the reinforcement of the measures for child abuse prevention (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) [Japanese]

See also: Child Abuse Prevention Law of 2004 [English, unofficial translation]