Kodomo to Hou (Children and the Law - A Socio-Legal Study of the Boundary between Children and Adults)
384 pages, A5 format
February 25, 2022
University of Tokyo Press
Many people think that it is only natural to treat children and adults differently. The classifications between children and adults are often perceived as natural, universal, and unchangeable. However, this perception is just an artificial creation that emerged with the establishment of the modern school education system. We should examine the children–adults classifications more carefully, rather than blindly take them for granted. This book is a work of socio-legal research that attempts to present a new perspective of “child discrimination,” which is similar in concept to discrimination against other minorities such as gender and race.
The issue of children and the law is certainly complex. Although scholars and advocates have argued the most ideal design of social status of children at the ideological and policymaking level, none of them has successfully gained a strong academic or political support. Consequently, we have lacked foundations of legal theory in this area. To build a foundation of children and the law, this book proposes a perspective of “child discrimination” with the principle of equality, a globally-shared fundamental concept.
This book first shows the existence of child discrimination in our society by empirical research (Part I and Part II). It explores, by surveys and data analyses, how children are actually viewed and treated by people in society. It attempts to shed light on the existence of systemic disadvantages for children in society, in comparison with adults. Various legal ages are typical examples of how adults are allowed to do certain things while children are not. Legal ages such as for voting and adulthood have recently gained attention in Japan as they were changed from twenty to eighteen. In Part I of the book, public perceptions and opinions in relation to such legal ages in Japan are comprehensively surveyed. As a result, an imbalance between the rights and obligations of children was found at the level of people’s legal perceptions. To put it plainly, it seems that many people prefer to impose obligations on children than to give them rights. In addition to examining the formal legal status of children, it is also important to uncover how children are actually treated in society. For example, part-time hourly wages for high school students are sometimes uniformly set to be low in Japan, compared to other part-time workers who do the same job. Part II therefore focuses on people’s stereotypes about children. Then, it further examines de facto discrimination against children in a variety of social contexts (e.g., credibility assessment of child witnesses and negotiation with children).
Lastly, Part III of the book is legal theoretical research aimed to address the issue of child discrimination revealed in Part I and Part II. To prevent arbitrary classifications between children and adults, we need some judging criteria. This book considers the issue of child discrimination as an issue pertaining to the principle of equality, as is the case with discrimination against other minority groups. To be specific, Part III discusses the standard of judicial review under the constitutional principle of equal protection, to consider what kinds of children–adults classifications should be allowed.
This book is recommended for anyone interested in the perspective of “child discrimination” or in socio-legal studies, an academic field that explores the interaction of law and society through data analyses.
(Written by: SAITO Hiroharu / July 04, 2022)
The 2nd UTokyo Jiritsu Award for Early Career Academics (The University of Tokyo 2021)
Equal Protection for Children: Toward the Childist Legal Studies (New Mexico Law Review Volume 50 Issue 2 p. 235–286 2020)