A Society Where We Can Turn “Disability” into “Individuality”

  Some people say “Disability is individuality.” The word sounds very pretty, but I feel it simplifies the problems too much when it’s used by people who don’t know much about the disabled. Those who are called “the disabled” are “handicapped,” at least, in some ways. But they don’t handicap themselves; rather, it’s their circumstances that handicap them. People with myopia, for example, would have great difficulty in their social life without aids such as glasses (at least I would). We can lead “normal” lives only because we have glasses or contact lenses, but without such aids, we are “the disabled.” We can consider our faces with glasses on as our individualities. But if we didn’t have such aids, we couldn’t accept the idea that “Your bad sight is your individuality.” What’s important is a society where we can turn “disability” into “individuality.”

  By the way, when does it hit parents that their children might have developmental disability? I thought that was the case soon after my daughter was born. I thought that she was somehow different from other children. Although she was my first child, I couldn’t repress my intuition that was telling me something was wrong. My new-born daughter slept well, and all I had to do was change her diapers and give her milk. She needed almost no care other than that.

 “Something’s wrong with my daughter. She needs almost no care and it seems that she doesn’t catch my eye.”
  I told my family and friends this, but they didn’t take my words seriously. My mother-in-law told me it wasn't right to complain that my daughter didn’t need care, and my mother said that it was information I'd read online that was making me think that she might have developmental disability (in fact, the Internet didn’t help me so much). Searching online for “developmental disability” and “autism,” I found a number of people asking if their children had autism. And, the usual answers read, “It’s OK. You’re just worrying too much. I know a child like yours in my neighborhood,” or “My son acted in the same way, but he doesn’t have autism. So, it’s gonna be alright.” I felt uncomfortable at such answers because they treated the question as “somebody else’s problem.”

  You can’t say it’s OK when you don’t actually see the child. What do they have in mind when they make irresponsible comments such as, “You’re just worrying too much” or, “It’s OK”? If your friend told you she had some symptoms that could be signs of cancer, you’d tell her to go to the hospital and have a checkup. If she did actually have cancer, how would you take responsibility if you'd told her, “It’s OK! I know a person who had symptoms like yours, but she didn’t have cancer! You’re just worrying too much!”? What you really have to say is, “If you’re concerned about your symptoms, consult with the hospital or some medical institution.” No one likes to do the job of telling someone a shocking truth. Genuine kindness, however, is to help people to face the truth and come to terms with it gradually.

  “Your daughter is still too young to be diagnosed and I’m not a doctor, but as far as I can see, she looks fine,” staff at the Developmental Disability Support Center told me. It did nothing but reassure me, but the reassurance to help me in a desperate situation and the one to divert me from the truth are two completely different things. The latter is clearly harmful, and I find it irresponsible complacence. Of course, I know it's well-intentioned, though.

  My daughter did eventually manage to start catching my eye and pointing at the people and things around her, but later than most other children. But I still worried that she might have developmental disability. I had heard that some autistic children had unstable development and suddenly went backwards. All these years raising my daughter, I’d never felt that she was cute with all my heart. I was always wondering what would become of her and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I really regret that I couldn’t enjoy raising her to my heart’s content.

  Irritated by my worries, my mother told me “You’ve got to raise your child no matter what problems she has!” I was surprised by her remark. I’m not saying I don’t want to raise my daughter just because she’s disabled. What I’m worrying about is her future -- what if her disability means she has to go through hard times? What if she can’t enjoy the expressive richness of books because her learning disability prevents her from reading? Of course, her disability doesn’t automatically mean she’s unhappy. Still, parents would wish to minimize the hardship their children would go through and develop their potential to its fullest.

Original article on the WAN website (October  4, 2012)

Translated from the WAN website by TAJIMA, N.


A divorce by agreement is possible in mediation?
Reply by Attorney Ms. Sakura UCHIKOSHI




Although there is a method, it had better be positive.

Both the husband and the wife agree on divorce by mediation, however two persons or either one may desire a divorce by agreement as feeling resistance etc. and  submits a notification of  "divorce by mediation."

In each family register of the husband and the wife, it is indicated as " yearmonth day , divorce-by-agreement notification with ・・・" in the case of divorce by agreement, and also indicated as " year month day , divorce-by-mediation formation with ・・・"  in the case of divorce by mediation. The latter case, probably you will hesitate to mediate because an image of mediation is like your divorce was not formed with agreement or you and your husband disputed heavily.

In that case, both of you can sign up or put one’s seal on notification of divorce by agreement and submit it. If you take that way, you had better be cleared that both of you agree about the expense of bringing up a child, settlement of asset, reparation, division of pension on documents of mediation. On documents of mediation, it is written that both of you agree on divorce by agreement. But even though that agreement is written on the documents, divorce by agreement is not formed. You should write down who will submit a notification of divorce(conveniently it is usual that one who remove family register will submit) and one entrust a notification of divorce with one’s sign and seal to another who will submit it at mediation.

However, it is troublesome if one who does not submit a notification of divorce will submit an unuccepted report (notification of the purport that a divorce notice is not received). If one just forgot about an unaccepted report, you can ask to withdraw it. But if one does not withdraw it easily, you may be in a trouble. In that case, you have to start to proceed to offer mediation again.

 Considering the possibility of such a trouble, I would recommend to realize divorce through divorce by mediation.  I believe that divorce is divorce. It is the same a divorce resolved by mediation as a divorce resolved by agreement. I am sure that you make a new start by overcoming difficulties in either way (a lawsuit of divorce is also the same, you worked hard and resolved). You should not mind. I strongly recommend to take a certain way without taking risk.

I am not saying that divorce by agreement is better than divorce by mediation. But if either the husband or the wife is abroad on the day of a formation of divorce, you could form a divorce by agreement or form a divorce by mediation on the basis of representative attendance. If the husband or the wife is abroad, he/she had better sign up or put one’s seal on a notification of divorce in advance and hand it over to her/his representative for handing over to other parties. But if either one is away for a short business trip etc…, it is better to change the due date or assign another due date.  It is certain that the person himself/herself had better attend when mediation is formed including divorce case.

Otherwise, there is a way that the Family Court will hold hearing instead of mediation (Domestic-proceedings Article 284 the 1st clause of adjective law). This is the hearing by the referee performed by authority in consideration of all situations when the Family Court admits being considerable, it will decide, if the party concerned to an objection cannot be found within two weeks, and it has the same effect as an irrevocable judgment.   


Original article on the WAN website (February  21, 2013)


Translated and adapted from the WAN website by OGAWA.M.


Opposition towards New Prenatal Diagnostic Test

Don’t Hesitate to Trouble Them (Them means able bodied caregivers or able body people around the disabled).

Opposition towards New Prenatal Diagnostic Test

Disabled people, “Let’s go out to roam around the town like a breeze.” If there is anyone who gets in the way, “do not hesitate to be a burden to him/her”. Independence does not mean “solitude.” The disabled need “people around” to be independent.

In the 1970’s, when the movement opposing compulsory special school education was active, I voluntarily came back to Tokyo from Kyoto for the care of my mother-in-law who had cancer. I indulged in the life solely assuming the expected role of “caring”, going back and forth between the hospital and home. I was locked up in my house but did not question the life of “housewife-like situation” at all.

One day, a flyer blown by the wind had dropped in front of the hospital and caught my attention. It was an ad for the movie, “Goodbye CP (cerebral palsy)”. It aroused my interest and I felt like seeing the film. It was a movie produced by Shippu Production in 1972, depicting a handicapped person, unable to walk on two feet, but getting around in the town on knees with his body twisting. It was a film exposing something “different” to the light of day in an ordinary “homogenous” town. The guy who walked on the street is Hiroshi Yokota, chairman of Kanagawa branch of Aoi-shiba-no-kai1). Director: Kazuo Hara.
I participated in the student group activities to care for the disabled after being asked to help “T” with whom I met for the first time at the Chapel Hour at Doshihsa University’s lecture program open to the public.

Before long, I began going out with the disabled as a member of the group who supported the independency of disabled by providing them with 24-hour care in shifts. It was normal in those days for the Japan Railways (public railway system prior to becoming a private enterprise) to reject disabled people to board trains and restaurants not allowing their admission. In such cases, I often got furious and had serious arguments with the customer services there. But it was always the disabled that soothed me and dismissed those incidents casually by saying, “Don’t get so upset. Take it easy.”

I once helped a disabled woman who started living alone in the local area with strong determination to “move out from home and not wanting to live in institutions.” I helped her for several years and got involved in her personal life, during which time she got married and had a child. In those days the remnants of students’ movement were still around. The students in the group worked diligently and were very gentle. They were somewhat weird but merry.

Mr. Koichi Yokotsuka, the first chairman of Aoi-shiba-no-kai, said, “Being thoughtful is not to feel reserved towards able-bodied people. We, as physically challenged with CP, must be thoughtful but at the same time be assertive. In some cases, we have to use able-bodied caregivers to the fullest extent even if we are aware it will exhaust them and possibly lead to their collapse.” (“Mother, don’t kill me.” 1975, by Suzusawa Shoten.)

He is said to love Shinran’s2) words in “Tanni Sho”, “よきひとのおほせをかふりて信じるほかに別の子細なきなり (I simply believe my mentor Honen’s words, and nothing else, “Do pray with, Nenbutsu, Buddhist chants and be saved by Amitabha, a celestial Buddha”) ” He probably wanted to  reflect relationship between Shinran and Honen”3) over the extremely strained relationship between the handicapped and their caregivers.

I often took my elementary-school daughter at the time to this group’s activities. One day she asked me while we were taking a bath, “Why did God produce disabled people?” I answered, “People with disabilities are born in fixed ratio in the same way people with other characteristics are born.” It is natural that there are strong people, weak people, and people different from you in the world. Besides, it is not so unhappy to be disabled.” “Is that so…” my daughter answered pondering deeply over my words.

She is now in her 40’s and she had her first child at the age of 41. She gave birth to a baby who happened to come after 15 years of marriage. In spite of her age, she rejected prenatal diagnosis by amniocentesis. And when her child was a year and a half, she got a divorce. As a single mother, she lives a struggling life with her two year and a half daughter who is getting more and more assertive.

Eugenic Protection Law’s revision bill was laid on the table in 1972 and 1973, trying to eliminate “the economic status condition” to legal abortion and include “fetus status condition4)”. “However, due to the strong opposition movement by women and the disabled advocates, the bill was shelved and finally damped in 1974.”
10 years later, in 1982, a Diet member, Masakuni Murakami of the Liberal Democratic Party then (a member of Seicho-No-Ie (House of Growth), a world’s largest New Thought Group) tried to submit the revision bill to the Diet again, wishing to eliminate “economic status condition” without referring to “fetus status condition”. However, because of nationwide opposition movements and local governments’ adoption of petitions, majority of Diet members took cautious stance and judged the bill “ahead of time prior to legalization” and in March 1983, the idea of submitting the bill was given up.
Then why didn’t 1982’s bill to revise Eugenic Protection Law refer to “fetus status condition”? That is because the revised Maternal and Child Health Act had already included this “fetus status” provision. The preparation to revise the Maternal and Child Act started in 1976 and steadily and successfully they pulled of revision of this law.

It turned out that the original purpose to revise the Maternal and Child Health Act is as mentioned in the Article One of Eugenic Protection Law – “to prevent birth of inferior descendants from the eugenic point of view, and to protect life and health of mother, as well.” The revision was bolstered by the following governmental policy in late 70’s as well – “Vision of Enhancement of Family Foundation” – mainly asserted by the late Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira. On top of that, another purpose for the revision of Maternal and Child Health Act was to divide the coalition of women and the disabled advocates by undertaking the “economic status condition” and “fetus status conditions” separately by different laws.

And now, new compulsory prenatal diagnosis is about to be legalized in Japan. “In October this year, some 10 medical facilities will start clinical tests of new prenatal diagnosis by which three chromosomal abnormalities including Down Syndrome can be identified with high precision from pregnant women’s blood. Test is aimed to offer pregnant women at age of 35 and older from their 10th week of pregnancy. In the case of Down Syndrome, its abnormalities can be identified with 99.1% precision. Since unlike the conventional test method, having blood test in early pregnancy alone can conduct diagnosis, which creates concerns for inducing abortion, leading to the ‘selection of life.’ The backdrop of introduction of new test is rapidly increasing in cases of late marriages and late childbearing. According to Population Survey Report in 2011, average first birth age is 30 years old and older. One forth of newly born babies in 2011 bore from advanced-aged pregnant women.” (Tokyo Shin bun)

I also suspect that there is a fear of radiation concerning the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant Explosion brought about by Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. Under the circumstances, the weakest “fetus” is obliged to be the biggest sacrifice. Furthermore, those who are forced to make this heavy decision are women.

In the history of women’s liberation movements, women claimed their right for abortion as the right of self-determination, with slogan, “‛ to breed or not’ is women’s choice,” while disabled people shouted, “Mother, don’t kill me!” concerning “fetus status condition.” (I do want to say “Do not flee, men!” as enantiosis.) Why did women and the disabled have to be at loggerhead?  In the past two opposition movements towards revision of Eugenic Protection Law, no right answer was given. Current new compulsory prenatal diagnosis legalization move will give heavier burden to day-to -day life of women and the disabled in the context of integration of administrative and science/ medical organization.

On December 23, 2012, gatherings will be held in Tokyo and Osaka related to new compulsory prenatal diagnosis “Let’s talk about new prenatal diagnosis test” in Tokyo, organized by Voice from High-Risk Women/ Soshiren “From Women’s (Our) Body” “Is it Good thing to know whether or not your fetus has ‘disabilities’ just by blood test?” in Osaka, organized by Reproduction Medicine and Discrimination (picture-card shows project), co-organized by Kyoto Parental Group of Down Syndrome Children “Triangle”.

On December 16th in Japan, the general election of the Lower House ended. The result was as assumed. What a disaster! Just like a period of final days of Weimar Republic, I am afraid that based on concept of eugenics, Japan is steadily proceeding to the road to fascism. Whenever I think of the future of Japanese young people, I get profoundly depressed. 

Translator’s notes
1.       Aoi-shiba- no-kai: A society of people with cerebral palsy who aim to be free from restriction to remain at home and live not in an institution for the disabled but live independently in town with the help of caregivers.
2.       Shinran (1173 –1263) was a Japanese Buddhist monk, who was born in Kyoto at the turbulent close of the Heian period and lived during the Kamakura period. Shinran was a pupil of Honen and the founder of what ultimately became the Jodo Shinshu sect in Japan
        (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinran)
3.       Honen: (1133 –1212) is the religious reformer and founder of the first independent branch of Japanese Pure Land Buddism called Jōdo-shū ("The Pure Land School"). Hōnen became a monk of the Tendai sect at an early age, but grew disaffected, and sought an approach to Buddhism that anyone could follow, even during the perceived Age of Darma Decline. He taught people to recite the Buddha’s name or nembutsu to be saved. 
        (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hōnen)
4.       “the economic status conditionª” / 5. “fetus status condition”
The points of revision bill in 1972, and 73 were the elimination of the  “economic status” from the possible conditions of abortion, and the insertion of “fetus status” provision in this law. For women’s right advocates, elimination of “economic status” means reducing women’s self decision right to breed or not to breed. For the disabled, insertion of additional “fetus status” provision means possible increase of abortion of fetus having abnormalities in expanded lists of disorders.

Original article by Mine Yagi on the WAN website (Dec. 20, 2012)

Translated and adapted by Y. Hayami.