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  • Human Rights Research Center

Serious Abuses of Japanese Women in Prisons

November 17, 2023

Human Rights Watch Asia program officer Teppei Kasai (center) speaks during a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday. | KYODO

Cited article by the Japan Times

HRRC emphasizes the critical need for a comprehensive inquiry into reported human rights abuses against women in Japanese prisons. The organization urges swift action to address these violations, emphasizing the importance of accountability and adherence to international human rights standards to ensure justice for all affected individuals.

News Brief

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), women incarcerated in Japan endure various abuses, including being handcuffed during pregnancy, separation from newborns, and inadequate care for elderly inmates. HRW's report, based on interviews with nearly 60 formerly jailed women, claims that female inmates are sometimes shackled during labor and immediately after giving birth. The Justice Ministry denied some of the allegations, stating that restraints are not used during certain activities and that appropriate medical measures are taken. However, HRW argues that many women in Japanese prisons suffer serious human rights abuses, with new mothers often having their babies taken away from them soon after birth. While the law allows mothers to request to keep their children with them for at least one year, HRW asserts that prison authorities rarely inform women of this right.

The report also highlights concerns about the treatment of pregnant prisoners, who are typically handcuffed before and after entering delivery rooms, contrary to international best practices. Additionally, HRW criticizes Japan's prison system for not adequately addressing the needs of the growing number of elderly inmates, including instances of bullying and mistreatment due to limited mobility. The aging prison population, particularly among women, has increased rapidly in recent years. HRW suggests that some older women repeatedly commit nonviolent crimes due to social isolation and loneliness. The report further identifies issues such as poor prison healthcare, punishment through solitary confinement, mistreatment of transgender inmates, and the imprisonment of individuals for petty crimes due to a lack of alternatives like community service in Japan.


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