2007: Asia Inter-religious Conference on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution - Closing Statement

 

Inter-religious Conference 2007 - Tokyo

 

Asia Inter-religious Conference on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

Article 9 and Peace in Asia


2

8. Nov. - 2. Dez. 2007

 

 


ISHII Mayako

Prof. Dr. ISHII Mayako
President / YWCA of JAPAN

Closing Statement

I would like to address two issues of this conference. First of all, I sincerely support what Tetsuya Takahashi pointed out during the panel discussion yesterday, that Article 9 must be understood in connection with the "right to live in peace" that is mentioned in the Preamble of the Constitution. At the same time, I would like to emphasize that this spirit of the Japanese Constitution is ahead of our times indeed, and in being confirmed by the United Nations and others, has become an internationally recognized principle.

The words "free from fear and want," as found in the text of the Preamble that reads "We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want," are said to derive from the "freedom from want" and "freedom from fear" that was articulated in the "Four Freedoms" address given by U.S. President Roosevelt in January 1941. They also derive from the words of Roosevelt and Churchill in the Atlantic Charter, wherein they said "they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want." What is important is that the war leaders had to hold up such noble ideals to persuade not only the people of Britain and the United States but also the rest of the world to gain support for a war that forced considerable sacrifice. But while the Atlantic Charter said only that they "hope" to see established a peace, the Japanese Consti¬tution went so far as to confirm this as a right. That is because it was legislated after the tremendous scourge of World War II, and because it was expressed to the whole world as proof of Japan's expiation for causing a war of aggression. In any case, Article 9 was epoch-making in the history of humankind.

This principle was incorporated into the U.N. Charter of 1946 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted in 1948. The Preamble of the Uni¬versal Declaration of Human Rights states that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." It was reconfirmed in the International Covenants on Human Rights of 1966. A 1978 resolution of the U.N. General Assembly says "Every nation and every human being, regardless of race, conscience, language or sex, has the inherent right to life in peace." And the Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace, adopted at the U.N. General Assembly in 1984, says "[Tjhe preservation of the right of peoples to peace ... constitute a fundamental obligation of each State."

It is significant that the Preamble of the Japanese Constitution confirms that people have the "right to live in peace". And I think the claim by advocates of constitutional revision, that the Japanese Constitution hastily adopted this principle which is only slowly growing on the international conscience, and that it should therefore be brought back in line with other constitutions that have yet to reach a similar level, is outrageous.

Article 9 is the foundation of the right to live in peace. Only with the renuncia¬tion of war, non-maintenance of forces, and non-recognition of the right to bellig¬erency are we guaranteed the right to life in a country without war nor its prepara¬tion or armaments. Actions by the Japanese government that violate Article 9 vio¬late the right to live in peace, which is a basic human right. It is a pleasure that we could confirm at this conference that Article 9 is not something monopolized by the Japanese but is held in common by people of many different backgrounds.

My second point is this: In order to implement Article 9, which supports the right to live in peace, it is essential to alleviate at an early stage any conflict that might lead to war. One important requisite for this is greater social participation by women, who make up half the world's population. To this end, we need greater empowerment of women. If conflict is to be prevented, it is important to alleviate the social and cultural distinctions under gender discrimination rather than focus on the biological differences between the sexes.

Social and cultural discrimination remains serious even in the economically ad¬vanced country of Japan. An indexed of gender gap in business, politics and edu¬cational opportunity, released last year by the World Economic Forum, a private Swiss institute that sponsors the annual Davos Conference, ranked Japan a surpris¬ingly low 79th among 115 countries in the world. (A follow-up study in 2007 further dropped Japan's rank to 91st. See Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper, November 9, 2007.)

I would like to impress on you that gender discrimination is a violation of uni¬versal human rights, that efforts to eliminate gender discrimination also lead to the elimination of discriminations against various minorities who are marginalized by society and unable to speak out, and that these efforts are essential to create peaceful societies, both domestically and internationally.

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