Japan and Rising Numbers of Child Abuse Cases: Increasing Awareness to Social Ills
Sawako Uchida and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Child abuse is sadly an international reality that exists in all societies to varying degrees. Of course, some nations have strong pro-active laws and policies in place to provide support. However, other nations are not so focused and in the worse case scenario, some countries are neglecting the rights of children. Therefore, although it is with great sadness that reported cases have now reached just over 103,000 cases in Japan – on the other spectrum it shows that the government and local governments are now more focused on helping the most vulnerable in society.
Statistics are clearly open to many interpretations but certain underlying factors, both positive and negative, are behind the growing rise of reported child abuse cases in Japan. Equally important, the number of cases highlights the need to employ more professional people and support networks in this essential social welfare area. If not, then growing caseloads for individual workers will lead to mistakes and lack of real attention because of overwork. This reality means that the government of Japan must respond to the growing numbers of child abuse cases by strengthening the infrastructure, social networks, making people aware, working with schools and hospitals – and other areas related to safety mechanisms.
In 2011, CNN reported “Figures from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare show the cases of reported child abuse have quadrupled in 10 years and increased 40 fold in twenty years. In 1990, the ministry recorded 1,101 cases of abuse. In 1999, 11,631… in 2009, the numbers hit an all-time high of 44,211.”
The increasing highs in this period have now reached just over 103,000 cases in 2015. This seems a remarkable figure from the astonishing low figure of 1990. Therefore, obviously, issues related to more pro-active laws by the government and respective local governments are making a major impact.
Welfare officials, the general public, local governments, and the central government, are now more in tune with each other than in the past when neglect didn’t set off alarm bells. On top of this, some major horrendous cases of child neglect and the failure of the system led to a new impetus in this area. Given this reality, media coverage of the most severe cases along with campaigns of growing awareness happens to have shifted the balance to a more pro-active approach. However, the road is still full of rocks because so much more needs to be done in order to protect the most vulnerable in society – but, it still must be acknowledged that inroads are being made in comparison with the past.
Figures in 2015 also highlight the extent of psychological abuse because this area accounted for 48,693 cases. Physical abuse of children came second at 28,611 followed by open neglect at 24,438. Another 1,518 reported cases involved child sexual abuse.
However, despite many areas of success in relation to being more pro-active the issue of institutional neglect remains extremely problematic. After all, for the majority of children who become institutionalized then the chances of finding a family home is rare. Therefore, with each institution needing to be judged on merit, it is clear that some are run based on lack of genuine care and where neglect is a reality.
The BBC reports in 2014, “Nearly 90% of 39,000 children in care last year were living in government-run institutions rather than with families, Human Rights Watch said in a report released earlier this year… The rate is the highest among industrialized nations, the report warned, with as few as one in 10 children eventually moving to a family environment through fostering or adoption.”
Turning back to the statistical area then the increasing numbers of child abuse cases being reported is clearly multifaceted. For example, for over two decades the economy remains largely in the doldrums despite some periods of limited growth. Similarly, increasing numbers of people are getting divorced with the knock-on effect being the family breakdown and more poverty for people on a limited income. After all, single parents (mainly single mothers in Japan) get limited support and the cost of raising a child is extremely high (obviously, the majority of single families are among the most loving – but the financial angle and reduced family network are creating a negative vacuum for a minority). Other social ills apply to growing temporary work contracts that are putting added burdens and stresses on families – and the same applies to a declining economic base (child abuse exists in all economic social groups) for many on the economic margins.
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The photo image is not related to family breakdown and child abuse. On the contrary, it is aimed at the power of the family in caring for children.