Many Japanese people are sharing the world wide interest in an African American becoming president of the United States, but few ever pause to think about their own nation’s abuse of people who are from buraku backgrounds. A buraku is the term used to describe an area where many people have ancestral ties to the people who were placed at the bottom of feudal society in the Edo period where they carried out low level tasks considered “tainted” according to Buddhist and Shinto beliefs. Many were engaged in butchery and leather work where the killing and use of animal corpses was involved. The estimate of the number of such people in modern Japan ranges from 1.2 million up to three million.
Few Japanese people will even use the expression and its use is considered a conversation stopper. Most large corporations have finally gotten around to hiring people from a buraku area but few smaller sized companies will hire such people. It is commonly assumed people of this background are linked to organized crime. A recent incident in which a leader of the Buraku Liberation League was found to be connected to crime lords reinforced beliefs in their criminality. As a result of this story, Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto cut all government assistance to buraku areas.
There is not government legislation to deal with discrimination based on one’s origin in Japanese society nor does Japan have a vibrant multicultural education which would raise such topics with students in school. It is believed silence and not seeing are the best solutions to dealing with hate and discrimination.
Sweden in 2008 experienced its highest level of immigration with most newcomers arriving from Africa and Asia. A recent report observed that immigrants from these areas are behind those born in the European Union in areas such as “eduction, the job market and living arrangements.” Satistics Sweden(SCB)s was surprised at the extent of segregation these individuals were experiencing once arrived in their new homeland. A particular problem noted Lotta Persson of SCB is “they are not eligible in the same was as other groups for upper secondary education, as they are not achieving the right grades, even though we take into account how long they have been in Sweden.” Ironically, immigrants from Africa have rather good education backgrounds but they are more often found in low skilled work.
Sweden has its own version of “white flight” as native born Swedes move from neighborhoods containing a high proportion of immigrants from Asia and Africa. Persson states bluntly: “they are definitely discriminated against in society. This discrimination may be one of the reasons for segregation as it might be m ore difficult for them to get loans to buy a house.”
Ironically, the same reasons for discrimination exist in Sweden as in America and the same consequences are also found-difficulty in securing loans to purchase a house.
After months of wrangling over words and issues, the parliament of Lithuania is now prepared to pass legislation which will take a dramatic stand on prejudice and discrimination in the nation. The new law will prohibit discrimination of people over gender, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, beliefs or creed, age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity or religion. The legislature did agree to exempt religious institutions which are dedicated to propogating certain values from being compelled to violate the basis of their institutional beliefs.
The legislation finally places Lithuania in accordance with the European Union Law on equal rights. The work of the Lithuania legislature is remarkable and goes a long way to protect the rights of all members of the community against hate and discrimination.
A world wide six million member religious group continues encountering prejudice in Turkey which refuses to recognize the Baha’i faith as a significant religious entity. A Baha’i is not allowed to enter his/her religious faith on identify cards which are important documents in modern societies. Although, the Turkish Baha’s community does not encounter the severe discrimination against them which is practiced in Iran, they still confront the daily issues of being an ignored religion in a society that essentially is Muslim. A European Union report noted, “administrative documents such as identify cards include an entry on religion that may be filled in or left blank. this might lead to discriminatory practices.” The United States State Department has also expressed its concerns over the manner in which people of the Bahai’ faith are treated in Turkey. It is common for Interior Ministry police to check up on them and create an image that somehow a Baha’i is not a loyal Turk. Parents of Baha’i children have to deal with their children being given instruction in the Muslim faith in schools, but there is no allowance for learning about their own religion.
It is clear that Baha’i members do not deal with threats of jail and loss of jobs which is very common in Iran, but there is no reason why Turkey cannot recognize the religion and accord it all the freedom and opportunities provided other religious faiths.