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Women 2000, Japan NGO Alternative Report
by Japan NGO Report Preparatory Committee, 1999.08.13
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L. The Girl-Child

1. Innovative policies, programs, projects, and best practices

  1. Strengthening measures against child prostitution and child pornography

2. Obstacles and how they are being overcome

  1. Including a separate section on girl-child in our national plan of action for women
  2. Sex education
  3. Girls in science and technology
  4. Child abuse
  5. Comic pornography
  6. Anorexia

3. A vision for the future

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1. Innovative policies, programs, projects, and best practices

(1) Strengthening measures against child prostitution and child pornography

      In response to paragraph 283(d) of FWCW PFA, the bill punishing act related to juvenile prostitution and child pornography and protection of children passed the 145th Diet Session on May 18, 1999. The law was enacted in November, 1999. It prohibits not only buying sex from those under 18 but also bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution or export of pornographic photographs, videos and Internet images of them.

      The law also applies to sexual acts overseas, and all violators are prosecuted without the victim having to shoulder the burden of proof. Under the current criminal law, victims of child prostitution must file criminal complaints of rape or indecency within six months, making it difficult for victims overseas to be brought before courts. The new law provides a legal basis for penalizing Japanese who go on "child sex" tours to other Asian nations.

      The law also penalizes those who offer money or gifts for sex or sexual acts with someone under the age of 18. Thus the law provides a legal basis for penalizing compensated dating (enjokosai) with young girls, usually in high school, utilizing "telephone clubs".

      Violators will face a maximum three years' imprisonment or a fine up to 1 million Japanese Yen for buying sex from a minor, while the penalty for producing,selling,distributing or exporting pornographic material depicting children is a prison term of up to three years or a fine of up to 3 million Japanese Yen.

      In order to protect the rights of the children involved, the law also prohibits the media from reporting their identities or the names of the schools they attend.

      One loophole in the law is that it does not make it an offense to simply possess pornographic material depicting children, though paragraph 277(b) of FWCW PFA states that Governments should encourage educational institutions and media to work to eliminate child pornography and degrading and violent portrayals of the girl child.

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2. Obstacles and how they are being overcome

(1) Including a separate section on girl-child in our national plan of action for women

      "Plan for Gender Equality 2000: National Plan of Action for Promoting a Gender Equal Society by the Year 2000" does not have a separate section for the girl-child. Therefore the issues of the girl-child are always absorbed in women's or children's issues. This makes it difficult to eliminate negative customary attitude toward the girl-child and discrimination in schools including kindergartens and nursery schools. For example, when teachers call the roll, they always call boys' names first. This customary practice has been improved to some extent in primary and senior high schools. However, it has still persisted in junior high schools. This customary practice "reinforces existing gender inequalities" as paragraph 261 of FWCW PFA points out. Mixed rolls where the names of girls and boys are arranged in alphabetical order irrespective of sex should be adopted in all schools including kindergartens and nursery schools. At the same time, it is necessary to provide teachers and educators with effective strategies for gender-sensitive teaching as paragraph 279(e) of FWCW PFA recommends.

      Paragraph 280(d) of FWCW PFA recommends to promote full and equal participation of girls in extracurricular activities, such as sports, drama and cultural activities. However, in extracurricular activities such as baseball,soccer and other sports, there exist various discriminatory practices in junior and senior high schools. In these sports clubs, girls are called managers, but what they actually do there is not planning their strategies of training and matches but cleaning of uniforms and preparing meals for boys.

      Women and girls are not allowed to enter into the ring of sumo wrestling, a Japanese national sport, nor they can mount the leading festival float of Gion in Kyoto. These traditional discriminatory practices are against what paragraphs 276(a) & (b) of FWCW PFA recommend.

      In order to give girls self-esteem and self-confidence, and to make boys respect girls' rights(Ref. FWCW PFA par. 278(c)), it is crucial for our national plan of action for women to include a separate section for the girl-child. This is one of the initiatives, as paragraph 260 of FWCW PFA requires, which prepare girls to participate actively, effectively and equally with boys in all levels of social, economic, political and cultural leadership.

      Having a separate section for the girl-child will encourage Government to collect disaggregated information and data on children by sex and age, undertake research on the situation of girls which is now almost nonexistent, and integrate the results in the formulation of policies, programs and decision-making for the advancement of the girl child. Disaggregated data collection, research and policy formulation are requested in FWCW PFA par. 274(g),& 275. It will also contribute to "generating awareness of the disadvantaged situation of girls among policy makers, planners, administrators and implementors at all levels, as well as within households and communities" (Ref. FWCW PFA par. 278(a))

      It will also improve the low self-image of girls which leads to drug abuse rapidly increasing recently.

(2) Sex education

      As paragraph 268 of FWCW PFA states, "motherhood at a very young age entails complications during pregnancy and delivery and a risk of maternal death that is much greater than average." In 1995 the reported number of abortions performed on teenage girls in Japan was 26,117. This figure is low because of a significant number of unreported abortions. The real number of abortions in the age bracket of under 20 is supposed to have been 36,564. In order to prevent unwanted pregnancy of teenage girls, sex education at schools, home or in media is indispensable, as paragraph 267 of FWCW PFA states quoting ICPD POA. The need of sex education and counseling for adolescents is stressed in paragraphs 281(e) & (g) of FWCW PFA.

      Sex education should be included in school curricula at all levels and teachers should receive adequate training in this area.(Ref. FWCW PFA par. 279(e)) However, the Ministry of Education's approach is: "It is better not to wake a sleeping child" and school principals still tend to be very conservative in this matter.

      Parents should be educated about, and involved in providing information to girls and boys to fulfil their right and responsibilities in sexual and reproductive health education of young people. Media are still continuing to give misleading information, as paragraph 262 of FWCW PFA points out, on reproductive health. Sex education which promotes gender equality and responsible sexual behavior and prevent unwanted pregnancy must be promoted at schools, home or media.

      In Japan sex education is focused almost exclusively on the biology of the reproductive system. Boys and girls are often separated during sex education classes, and sometimes boys don't have to attend at all. However, it is crucial to educate boys, as paragraph 278(c) of FWCW PFA urges, in order to promote their understanding of their roles and responsibilities in promoting women's health and preventing unwanted pregnancy, maternal mortality and transmission of sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

(3) Girls in science and technology

      The percentage of female university students who major science and technology is extremely low compared with that of male students. For example, the percentage of female students in the department of science was 24.4%, and it was 22.7% in the department of social science in 1996. In the department of engineering it was only 8.4%. The gender gap in these fields is caused by the way the girl-child is brought up. This was proved by the questionnaire survey conducted by the Japanese Association of University Women in 1995.

      The survey shows that there are several factors which stimulate interest in science. The most important factor is class work and experiments. Both boys and girls specializing in science and technology showed this, but girls showed it more clearly. Students begin to think of their future profession while they are at junior high school. There is another factor which arouses interest in science. A factor found only in girls is the influence of family members in the lower grades of elementary school and that of teachers in high school. Family members and teachers play an important role in fostering girls' interest in science.

      A significant difference was observed between girls and boys in the influence of family members and class teachers in high school on their decision of majors. About 80% of all girls surveyed consulted their parents and class teachers before they decided what courses to take at university, whereas only 55% of the boys did so, the rest of the boys making decision by themselves. Both fathers and mothers are equally important advisors for boys. However, for girls mothers are involved 1.4 times more than are fathers. Fathers give the most influential opinions on the decision of their majors for boys, whereas mothers are the most influential for girls.

      In order to narrow the gender gap in science and technology, mothers as well as teachers must be careful of the way they bring up the girl-child including the toys they give. Government should develop and adopt curricula, teaching materials and textbooks to improve the self-image, lives and work opportunities of girls, particularly in the areas where women have traditionally been underrepresented, such as mathematics, science and technology (Re.FWCW PFA par. 276(c)).

(4) Child abuse

      Most cases of child abuse are found by adults who are involved in children's health such as medical doctors, teachers, nurses including male-nurses, and public health nurses. However, there are actually cases where parents neglect their parental duties and children neglected sometimes meet with a tragic death. Government should take concrete measures as soon as possible, such as public health nurses' round of visits to the homes, dissemination of basic information on child care, and guidelines for employers to promote men's participation in child care. Sexual abuse including incest by someone in a superior position such as teachers, fathers and brothers is another serious problem. According to a survey conducted by an institute in 1994, approximately 60% of high school girls and 40% of middle school girls experienced some kind of sexual harassment. of them 7.2% of high school girls and 5% of middle school girls were forced to engage in indecent act or sexual intercourse. Sexual abuse is hard to find out and especially in case of incest parental authority often impedes effective measures to address the problem.

(5) Comic pornography

      The new law banning the manufacture, sale, distribution and export of pornographic materials excludes comic pornography from "child pornography". As a result, indecent comic books are easy to get at any convenience store, bookstore, and station kiosk. They are also sold through vending machines. You will see in a train many men, young and old, reading comic books full of drawings women cannot bear to see.

      In reviewing the new law in 2002, pornographic comic books and cybernetic pornography depicting children should be discussed as well as simple possession of pornographic photographs and videos.

(6) Anorexia

      Quite a few girls are now suffering from anorexia and its complications such as irregular menstruation, anemia and malnutrition. The main cause is the stereotyped idea that a beautiful girl must be slim and slender, which media stir up. Some even resort to plastic surgery to be as beautiful as they want to be. This is a serious health problem for girls. Attitudinal change of society where a good heart is valued rather than a fair face is expected.

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3. A vision for the future

      Thus, there a number of obstacles hard to overcome in the area of the girl-child. It is necessary to involve girls in formulating policies and programs regarding the girl-child in order to address the problem effectively.

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