In 17th century Japan, the feudal stratified society of Tokunaga regime (1603-1867) placed two groups at the bottom of the system, referring to them as Senmin (humble people): Eta (extreme filth) and Hinin (non-human).

The descendants of Senmin, now known as Burakumin, have continued to face discrimination based on their caste position, and are considered an outcast group. Their official numbers are 1.2 million, but unofficial figures place them at almost 3 million.

The Buraku are mainly engaged in unclean occupations, including leather making. Their work involved disposing of dead cattle, or as hide tanners and other leather-related crafts, while Hinin became security guards and executioners. The Buraku system was officially abolished by the Emancipation Edict of 1871, though discrimination against Buraku persists to this day. Buraku continue to be segregated in terms of residence, as they are categorised as ‘dirty’ and ‘inappropriate’ to associate with. The Buraku suffer from lower level of education as compared to other communities; Buraku women especially experience lower level of literacy, and even employment, placing them in a vulnerable position. They are also victims of sexual violence.  A survey by the Buraku Liberation League revealed that Buraku women experienced discrimination in a wide range of areas, including marriage, employment and healthcare, and approximately 30 percent had suffered from sexual violence’.

In Japan, specific legislations have been passed with the aim of improving living conditions of the Buraku community by increasing their access to education, employment, and providing redress in cases of discrimination.

Courtesy Rights Expert Japan


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