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The Cabinet on Tuesday (Mar 29, 2024) approved a bill that aims to protect young children from sexual assault by requiring those seeking employment in fields involving children to undergo background checks that go back 20 years.

The widely discussed system has been called the Japanese version of the UK’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

The screening process will allow employers to check with the Children and Families Agency on whether prospective employees have a history of sex offences.

The agency will then check records of sex offences maintained by the Ministry of Justice.

Those applying for a job must submit their family registration information to the agency.

If job seekers are found to have a record, they will be notified privately and the information will not be shared with the employer if they retract their job application within two weeks.

If the application is not retracted, the employer will be informed of the check results.

For those who committed crimes punishable with imprisonment, their record lasts up to 20 years; those with just a financial penalty imposed remain on record for up to 10 years.

Records include sexual criminal offences such as rape, as well as groping and the nonconsensual filming of minors.

The bill makes it mandatory for schools and nurseries to perform background checks on prospective employees.

For other facilities that deal with children, such as cram schools and sports clubs, such screening is not mandatory, though a certification system will be put in place that informs parents whether such a facility has performed background checks on their employees.

Parents are more likely to choose facilities with such a certification.

The background checks will also be applied to current employees once the law takes effect.

The government is currently devising detailed guidelines for employers on how to deal with current employees found to have a history of sex offences.

The measures outlined in the guidelines include moving the employee to a department where they do not interact with children, and, in the most severe case, dismissal.

Japan has never had a system in place that allowed employers to screen potential employees for a history of sex crimes.

The Children and Families Agency’s push toward setting up a Japanese version of the DBS comes amid cases of sexual abuse of minors in schools, cram schools and nurseries that had come to light in recent years.

Talks for implementing the system had gone on for several years amid high public interest, though the formulation and passage of the bill took time amid debate over how such a system might conflict with privacy laws.

The government aims to pass the bill in the current parliamentary session. – Reuters


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