JAPAN: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Japan's national legal provisions on children's rights, including guidance on how to conduct further research.

National laws on children's rights

Status of CRC in National Law
The Japanese Constitution does not specify the status granted to international treaties in national law, but the prevailing view is that ratified treaties such as the OPSC would take precedence over domestic laws. Japanese courts' ability to invoke or apply the OPSC is also unclear, as the Government of Japan explained in its 2004 report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child that "there is no precedent of a court decision explicitly showing whether or not the direct application of the provisions of the Convention is possible" Although it is not binding, the Government further expressed a viewpoint that "the manner of application should be determined on a case-by-case basis, with due regard to the purpose and content of the provisions of the Convention."

Constitution: While there appear to be no provisions of the Japanese Constitution that specifically address children's rights, article 97 of the Constitution stipulates that fundamental human rights are "conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate." According to the Government's first report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 1996, these rights include both civil and political rights (freedom of expression, thought, conscience, religion, etc.) and economic, social and cultural rights (education, minimum standard of "wholesome and cultured living").

Legislation: Japan does not have a comprehensive children's act, and legal provisions on children's rights appear throughout the Penal Code (刑法), Civil Code (民法), Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), and Code of Civil Procedure (民事訴訟法). Other statutes relating to children include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Child Welfare Act (児童福祉法)
  • Juvenile Law (少年法)
  • Child Health Law (母子保健法)
  • Labour Standards Law (労働基準法)
  • Family Registration Law (戸籍法)
  • Act on Punishment of Activities Relating to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Protection of Children (児童買春、児童ポルノに係る行為等の処罰及び児童の保護等に関する法律)
  • Law for Prohibiting Liquors to Minors (未成年者飲酒禁止法), Law for Prohibiting Smoking to Minors (未成年者喫煙禁止法), and Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement and Entertainment Businesses (風俗営業等の規制及び業務の適正化等に関する法律)
  • Child Allowance Act (児童手当法), Child Rearing Allowance Act (児童扶養手当法), and Act on Special Child Rearing Allowance (特別児童扶養手当等の支給に関する法律)
  • Child Abuse Prevention Law
  • School Education Law
  • Act on Penal Detention Facilities and Treatment of Inmates and Detainees

Legal Research:
The University of Washington offers a comprehensive guide to legal research in Japan, accessible at http://lib.law.washington.edu/eald/jlr/jres.html. The guide includes a list of Law Collections in English (http://lib.law.washington.edu/eald/jlr/jlrwebresources.htm#LawsinEnglish) and in Japanese (http://lib.law.washington.edu/eald/jlr/jlrwebresources.htm#LawsinJapanese). The Japanese government's official law translation project also offers a searchable database of Japanese laws in English (http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/) and in Japanese (http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/?re=01).

Compliance with the CRC
In its 2010 Concluding Observations, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that "certain aspects of domestic legislation, including in the area of juvenile justice, are still not consistent with the principles and provisions of the Convention." In fact, upon ratification of the CRC, Japan did not amend or introduce any legislation to bring its laws into compliance with the Convention. Instead, the government seeks to use the CRC more as a policy tool, in particular informing the National Youth Development Policy. The Committee has further criticised this approach for being neither comprehensive nor rights-based, and has further highlighted numerous violations of children's rights in the country including a low age of criminal responsibility, the legality of some forms of child pornography, and concerns about sexual assault.

In depth analysis
CRIN has published a guide to children's CRC rights under Japanese Law (http://crin.org/resources/infodetail.asp?id=21797).

Case law
CRC Jurisprudence
The Supreme Court of Japan issued decisions in July 1995 (1991 (Ku) No. 143) and June 2008 (2006 (Gyo-Tsu) No. 135) concerning, respectively, the inheritance rights and right to nationality of children born out of wedlock.

Case Law Research
Lists of case law resources are available in English at http://lib.law.washington.edu/eald/jlr/jlrwebresources.htm#CourtDecisionsEnglish and in Japanese at http://lib.law.washington.edu/eald/jlr/jlrwebresources.htm#CourtDecisionsJapanese. Summaries of important recent constitutional, civil and commercial law cases are available in English at http://www.senrei.com/.

Current legal reform projects
Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any current legal reform projects.    


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.