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2022 May 25 - 31 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Cross-party Dietmembers demand better system to support vulnerable women

May 27, 2022

Cross-party Dietmembers, including Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Councilors Kurabayashi Akiko, on May 26 submitted to the Ministry of Health and Welfare a written demand calling for an increase in the state budget for fiscal 2023 to strengthen the support system for women who are suffering from sexual abuse, domestic violence, and/or poverty.

They worked on the written demand after a bipartisan bill to provide comprehensive support to vulnerable women became law on May 19. They demand that full-time managerial posts be assigned in the Ministry of Health and Welfare; the number of staff who work to provide support services to such women be increased in local municipalities; the state financial backing be expanded to help municipalities improve working conditions of these staff; and training be given to ensure and improve the expertise of the staff in this field.

Receiving the written demand, Vice Welfare Minister Sato Hidemichi said, "We will take your suggestions seriously and address these issues."

The new law, unlike its previous legal framework based on the Anti-Prostitution Act which lacks the spirit of human rights protection, as its basic philosophy focuses on "respect for the needs" of women concerned and the "protection of human rights", and stipulates the responsibilities of the state and local governments.

The number of female staff members who give support or provide counseling services is only 1,500 throughout Japan, and 86% of them are non-regular workers. The non-regular worker percentage has been on the rise.

During Diet discussions before the enactment of the law, JCP Kurabayashi in charge of the party's gender equality commission pointed out that many staff members who have positions in support services work under one-year contracts and face termination of their contracts after working for up to five years, and that 35% of them earn less than 160,000 yen a month. She demanded that they be employed as permanent staff. She expressed concern that the termination of contracts and low wages could turn female staff who are supposed to give support to women in need into "women in trouble" themselves. She demanded an increase in the number of counselling staff as the number of advice-seekers is dramatically increasing.
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