Children in Japan Betrayed by Bureaucracy: Only Half of Fatal Child Abuse Cases Reviewed

Children in Japan Betrayed by Bureaucracy: Only Half of Fatal Child Abuse Cases Reviewed

Noriko Watanabe and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

According to an important investigation by the Yomiuri Shimbun media outlet, only half of all fatal cases involving child abuse were investigated between 2012 and 2015. This figure is alarmingly low because it is appropriate to review all shortcomings in fatal child abuse cases. Therefore, the central government must support local governments – and local governments must equally take responsibility in preventing further deaths related to child abuse.

For example, in one shocking case that resulted in a future death because of child abuse, it was inaction and a failed bureaucracy that enabled this fatality to take place. The prefecture responsible in this case is Shizuoka because no review took place after a two-year-old boy died from child abuse in 2012. Hence, in 2014 a baby girl of eight months old died of child abuse within the same family.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun responses by local governments in relation to this shocking report highlight many failings related to bureaucracy – and lack of care for the most vulnerable in society. Answers by various local governments specify the need for a systematic network that enables them to obtain all appropriate information from the police, hospitals, and other important institutions that are linked in the chain. Other issues specify stronger central government guidelines, increased budgets to fund investigations, greater training, and other similar areas.

Japan News reports, The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has requested that the 69 local authorities in which there is a child consultation center review all fatal abuse cases, but a Yomiuri survey revealed such procedures are being held back by staff shortages and difficulties in getting police and other relevant organizations to share information. The ministry plans to compile guidelines indicating the process for conducting such a review and other details so such checks will be conducted more thoroughly.”

The investigation by the Yomiuri Shimbun relates to 255 cases of child abuse cases that resulted in death between 2012 and 2015. Of these cases, only half were investigated thoroughly by appropriate bodies. Hence, the betrayal of children at risk from future cases – for example, the death of a baby girl of eight months of age after a child died prior to this tragic case in the same family. 

It should be noted that if fatal child abuse cases are not deemed important to investigate in half of these known cases, then what is the number of non-investigations in other forms of child abuse where death doesn’t result?

In other words, it is time to strengthen the Child Abuse Prevention Law and other laws related to child abuse. This applies to fatal cases and protecting children from child abuse in relation to violence, mistreatment, torture, and lack of care – and other areas related to child abuse.

Modern Tokyo News is part of the Modern Tokyo Times group

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