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Why Japan is a safe haven for pedophiles

There are reasons why it won’t adopt the American approach to dealing with risks posed by child abusers
A file photo of schoolchildren making their way home from class in Tokyo.

A file photo of schoolchildren making their way home from class in Tokyo. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 21, 2024 04:28 AM GMT
Updated: March 21, 2024 05:23 AM GMT

It has long been a suspicion, but has now been confirmed: Japan has become a safe haven for pedophiles.

Despite Japan's cabinet having recently approved a long overdue bill aimed at preventing convicted sex offenders from securing jobs that involve working with children, the bill does nothing of the sort.

Scheduled to be implemented by 2026, and not immediately as it should be, this initiative mandates 20-year background checks on job candidates for schools, daycares, and kindergartens, managed by the Children and Families Agency.

The bill facilitates a process where, if candidates have a relevant conviction within the past 20 years, they will be informed and given the choice to withdraw their application. Failure to withdraw allows the agency to notify the potential employer.

Giving candidates the option to decline a job offer after a background check might not go far enough in preventing them from seeking employment elsewhere. There is no mechanism in place to prevent an offender from continuously applying to different organizations until they find one that does not participate in the background check system.

Also, the mere fact that a sex offender is applying for a job that involves working with children should signal a red flag immediately, as it could potentially indicate a criminal's intent to re-offend.

"The new legislation poses serious concern as it does not outright prevent sexual predators from working with children"

The law requires employers to take "precautionary safety measures" with current employees found to be convicted sex offenders, but it seems to leave a significant amount of discretion to the employers on how to implement these measures. This could lead to inconsistent applications and potentially inadequate responses that do not sufficiently protect children.

Also, the voluntary nature of the program for private entities like cram schools, after-school clubs, and athletic clubs introduces a significant loophole. These environments can be just as vulnerable to abuse as formal educational settings. The lack of mandatory participation could result in uneven implementation and potential safe havens for offenders in sectors that opt out of background checks.

Given that roles involving working with children often come with considerable stress and comparatively lower remuneration, male individuals drawn to these positions typically possess a strong intrinsic motivation. Of course, we do not want to imply that such motivation in men should be automatically associated with nefarious intentions, but we also factually know by merely reading the news that most sexual offenses in schools are committed by males.

The new legislation poses serious concern as it does not outright prevent sexual predators from working with children, but merely introduces barriers that may only moderately increase the difficulty of obtaining such positions. Let’s not forget that only a couple of years ago there was a huge outcry from male babysitters after an app that helps people find a job in that market decided to ban males after many cases of sexual abuse were exposed.

This new bill's effectiveness hinges on its implementation and the rigor with which employers conduct and act on background checks. In environments where there is a scarcity of applicants, there is a huge risk that individuals with harmful intentions could eventually secure positions by persisting in their applications across multiple venues. And those venues, in the countryside, are the most vulnerable, as they are less attractive jobs.

A more constructive approach would involve strengthening the mechanisms of background checks and ensuring uniform application across all institutions, coupled with ongoing training and awareness programs for employers. This would help in creating a more robust safeguarding system, rather than relying on deterrents that can be navigated through persistence.

"One would expect an equally proactive approach in adopting measures that enhance the protection of children"

Additionally, considering Japan's willingness to adopt “up-to-date” legislation from the United States, including advances in LGBT rights, minority protections, and the endorsement of same-sex marriage, it's perplexing that a similar enthusiasm is not evident in the context of safeguarding young lives. One would expect an equally proactive approach in adopting measures that enhance the protection of children, yet this seems conspicuously absent.

Why not consider adopting certain aspects of the American approach to managing and mitigating the risks posed by sexual predators, particularly involving children?

The United States has implemented a comprehensive framework for tracking and restricting the activities of convicted sex offenders, a cornerstone of which is the sex offender registry system. This system, mandated at both federal and state levels, ensures that information about convicted sex offenders is available to the public, thereby aiding in community awareness and preventive measures.

Such registries include a range of information, from the offender's identity to their offenses, and are accessible online, providing a critical resource for employers, parents, and guardians in making informed decisions regarding the safety of children. Moreover, US legislation includes stringent restrictions on convicted sex offenders, limiting their ability to reside in, or even visit, certain areas like schools, playgrounds, and other places where children are commonly present.

By establishing a publicly accessible registry of sex offenders and adopting clear, enforceable restrictions on the activities and employment of convicted individuals, Japan could create a more deterrent-orientated environment for potential offenders. This approach would not only make it harder for sexual predators to find opportunities to work with children but would also foster a culture of transparency and vigilance, empowering communities to actively participate in safeguarding their children.

If these protective measures are not being enforced, there seems to be only one reason behind it. The Japanese government is aware of the staffing shortages in this sector and knows very well that a significant number of male workers have backgrounds as sex offenders.

For the government, implementing stringent regulations would simply render the sector unsustainable, so by not doing so authorities are inadvertently turning Japan into a sanctuary for such individuals.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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