Jinken, the Japanese word for human rights, appeared in the late 19th century at a time when Japan was opening up to European and American ideas and technology. One human rights issue at that time was the discrimination against a group of Japanese called Burakumin. And despite the 1871 law *(Kaihōrei) that supposedly "emancipated" the Burakumin, the discrimination problem continued. The Burakumin formed a levelers movement, called the National Levelers' Association (Zenkoku Suiheisha), in the 1920s. The movement adopted the so-called Suiheisha Sengen (Suiheisha Declaration) in 1922, which the movement presently regards as an early Japanese human rights declaration. (See the Human Rights Declarations section in this website for the text of this document). It was the 1946 Constitution of Japan (Nihon Koku Kenpo) that formally adopted human rights, with a provision on "fundamental human rights" in Article 11. The 1946 Constitution also provides for women suffrage and the separation of state powers as a principle of democratic Japanese government.

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