July 17, 2017

Today, I want to write about human rights in the Japanese Constitution. Human rights have three characteristics: peculiarity, impenetrability, and universality. Human rights are obvious rights possessed by human beings, they shall not be violated by the government, and shall be enjoyed by all people regardless of race, gender, status, or other differences.

Four Types of Human Rights

Human rights in the Japanese Constitution are categorized into four types: rights of freedom, suffrage, social rights, and beneficiary rights.

  • Rights of freedom: Eliminates the intervention of state in individual territory by use of authority, and guarantees free decision-making and activities by individuals.
  • Suffrage: Gives citizens the right to participate in state affairs. In order for citizens to remain free, they must have the right to participate in politics to ensure that their freedom rights are protected.
  • Social rights: Gives people in socially or economically weak positions the right to seek consideration from the state to live lives worthy as human beings. The realization of this right requires the active involvement of the state.
  • Beneficiary rights: Gives people the right to demand certain acts by the State, such as the right to receive trial, the right to petition, the right to claim national compensation, the right to claim criminal compensation, etc.

Articles Ensuring Suffrage

Article 15, Article 96, and Article 79, paragraph (2) of the Japanese Constitution ensure suffrage.

  • Article 15: Election rights; Eligibility for election
    • The people have the inalienable right to choose their public officials and to dismiss them…. Universal adult suffrage is guaranteed with regard to the election of public officials.
  • Article 96: Amendment to the Constitution
    • Amendments to this Constitution shall be initiated by the Diet…and shall thereupon be submitted to the people for ratification, which shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast thereon.
  • Article 79, paragraph (2): Citizen review of judges of the Supreme Court
    • The appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court shall be reviewed by the people at the first general election of members of the House of Representatives following their appointment

Citizens have the right to choose public officials, the right to vote for ratification of amendments to the constitution, and the right to review judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court.

Should Prisoners Have the Right to Vote?

Under Article 11 of the Public Offices Election Act, it is stipulated that people who have been sentenced to imprisonment or more serious charges do not have the right to vote until the execution of the sentence is completed or ceases to be enforceable.

However, this raises the question of whether suffrage guaranteed under the Constitution should be denied on the grounds of the Public Offices Election Act. Should the Constitution precede the Act, or the Act precede the Constitution?

I am personally in favor of suffrage for all people as stated in the Constitution, including prisoners. If suffrage is denied on the grounds of a law passed by government, then the impenetrability of human rights would be violated. Furthermore, insofar as prisoners are human beings, too, the universality of human rights would be violated if they are not granted suffrage.




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