TOKYO - New health ministry guidelines in Japan will classify as abuse any acts by members of religious groups who threaten or force their children to participate in religious activities, or that hinder a child’s career path based on religious doctrine.
The controversial Unification Church came to attention in 2022 after former prime minister Shinzo Abe was fatally shot by a man with longstanding grudges against the religious group.
Children of religious groups’ followers have criticised the authorities’ handling of this issue in the past.
In October, the ministry told local governments not to make perfunctory responses simply because a problem is religious in nature.
According to the sources, the envisaged guidelines will be in a question-and-answer format and will specify what faith-based acts against children fall under the categories of abuse as stipulated in the Child Abuse Prevention Law.
In addition, there are concerns that giving advice to parents may cause the abuse to escalate and bring increased pressure from religious groups on the families.
Guidelines already exist for child consultation centres on how to respond to abuse, but this will be the first time that they are devised specifically for children of religious followers. »