Japan's lawmakers debate sex offender screening bill

The Lower House of Japan's Diet has started deliberating a bill to set up a system that would enable operators of facilities for children to check if job applicants have committed sexual offenses.

The deliberations on the Japanese version of Britain's Disclosure and Barring Service began at a Lower House plenary session on Thursday.

Children's Policy Minister Kato Ayuko vowed to ensure the proper management of information and called for the bill's early enactment.

The bill requires operators of schools, day nurseries and other institutions to access the records of sex offenders held by the Justice Ministry through the Agency for Children and Families to check if potential employees have committed sexual crimes.

The records would be accessible for up to 20 years after offenders serve their sentences.

A lawmaker of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party said it is important to give top priority to protecting children from sex crimes, but criminal records contain strictly confidential information. He pointed out that the proposed system involves important Constitutional values such as the freedom to choose jobs and privacy.

In response, Kato said sexual violence has a harmful impact that is difficult to recover from and the most important thing is to protect children's dignity. She said operating a system to confirm criminal records will require strict information management. Kato said she will consider drawing up guidelines for implementing the system and will work to make it widely known.

A Lower House special committee also began debating the bill after the plenary session.