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Japan: Two Laws Amended to Better Protect Women

(Aug. 23, 2013) The Diet, Japan’s legislature, at the end of its regular session in late June 2013 passed legislation to revise the country’s anti-domestic violence law and the anti-stalking control law. Before the revisions were adopted, there were cases of violence against women that neither law could adequately cover, in particular, murders that had taken place that might have been prevented if the police had had the authority to interfere and stop the aggressors, based on law. Therefore the revisions are designed to fill gaps in the existing laws. (Revised Bills Against Stalking, Domestic Violence Set to Pass in Wake of Murders, THE Mainichi (June 25, 2013).)

The revised anti-domestic violence law covers violence committed by a boyfriend or girlfriend who shares the same living space with the victim; the law allows victims to file a petition with the court for issuance of a restraining order. (Act on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims, Act No. 31 of 2001, as amended byAct No. 72 of 2013; English translation of the Act before revision, Ministry of Justice website.) The current law provides for protection of victims who are spouses, de facto spouses, or ex-spouses of the aggressor. When the amendment becomes effective in January 2014 (Provisions attached to Act No. 72 of 2013, art. 1), victims of domestic violence who are not spouses, de facto spouses, or ex-spouses can obtain assistance from public Domestic Violence Support Centers. (Act. No. 31.) 

The revised anti-stalking law clamps down on repeated emails. (Act on Regulations of Stalking, etc., Act No. 81 of 2000, as amended by Act No. 73 of 2013, art. 2, ¶ 1, item 5.) The current law bans repeated phone calls and faxing, but not emailing, as a means of stalking. The revision obligates the local police to give notice to the requestor of the reasons for any denial of a request for a warning to an aggressor. (Id. art. 4, item 4.) The revised law also expands the scope of the local public safety commissions that can have jurisdiction over the stalking. The current law enables only the public safety commission that has jurisdiction over the place where the victim lives to take action, but the revision also gives public safety commissions that have jurisdiction over the stalker’s residence and the places where the harassment occurs the authority to issue warnings. (Id. art. 10.) This revision of the anti-stalking law will be fully effective on October 3, 2013. (Provisions attached to Act No. 73 of 2013, art. 1.)