Chapter 3 of the Constitution prescribes the rights and duties of the people. Because this chapter lists the types of human rights that are guaranteed, it is also called the “human rights catalogue.” Whether or not the new concept of human rights was adequately guaranteed in the Constitution, and whether or not the Constitution should be revised and include new provisions became points of contention. The debate over the pros and cons of constitutional revision were mainly about “new human rights” such as the “right to privacy,” the “right to know,” and the “right to the environment.” This debate occurred when society was undergoing major changes due to urbanization and informatization. This resulted in an awareness that it might be possible to fully protect these rights. On the other hand, there is also a view that constitutional revision is not necessary because there is a basis for all the “new human rights” in the existing articles.
The “right to privacy” refers to the right to not have one’s personal matters or private life made public for no reason. The concept of “privacy” was not widely recognized until the “After the Banquet Case” of 1961. During the previous year, Mishima Yukio published After the Banquet, a novel based on Arita Hachirō, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs. Arita claimed that the book infringed on his privacy, and he sued the author and the book’s publisher, Shinchōsha. At the trial, the court determined that the “freedom of speech” is protected as long as it does not infringe upon another person’s honor or reputation, or deprives someone of their privacy that is protected by the law. The debate over privacy has included a number of issues, including the controversy over the the Juvenile Act’s protection of juvenile offenders from having their name’s published, regulations related to stalking and child pornography, preventing revenge porn, the “right to be fortgotten” (the right to demand for the removal of personal information that has spread across the Internet), and the outing problem (reavealing somebody’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their permission). Actual incidents and trials involving these issues has led to debates and the development of new laws. In the 2000s, during the Information Age, people started to examine the necessity of protecting personal information. In 2003, the Act on the Protection of Personal Information was established and it was widely enforced since 2005. Opinions were divided over the personal identification system for administrative procedures (commonly known as the My Number System) because of fears over the state’s handling of personal information. In 2013, this system was established under the Act on the Use of Numbers to Identify a Specific Individual in Administrative Procedure and it started to take effect in 2016. According to one interpretation, even if the right to privacy is not stipulated in the Constitution, the phrase “respect for individuals” in Article 13 guarantees the right to privacy with strings attached.
With the exception of the time when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was in power (2009-2012), the Kōmeitō—which formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 1999—has taken a comparatively careful stance on constitutional revision. However, this does mean that the Kōmeitō is against constitutional revision itself. Instead, it has taken the position that it supports “lasting peace,” “respect for fundamental human rights,” and “the sovereignty of the people”—notions that are embodied in the Constitution—while also supporting the “adding to the Constitution” (kaken) based on new demands from society caused by the changing times. Some examples of new ideas or rights that the Kōmeitō believes should be added to the constitution are the “right to the environment,” “privacy,” and “local autonomy.”