The Constitution of Japan (Nihon Koku Kenpo, promulgated 1946, effective 1947) guarantees fundamental human rights (Article 11 ); the 'right to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness ... to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare' (Article
13); and freedom from 'discrimination in political, economic or social relations because
of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin' (Article 14). All people 'have the right
and the duty to work' (Article 27), and the right to collective bargaining (Article 28).
As in other places, however, legal guarantees are only the first step in ensuring freedom
from discrimination. The law needs to be backed up with societal and cultural change,
possibly taking the form of affirmative action programmes. There is considerable variability
in policy responses in Japan with regard to different dimensions of difference in
employment: gender, sexuality, ability/disability, age, and cultural or ethnic diversity. For
its time, the Constitution of Japan had a relatively detailed enumeration of rights, which
reflected the understandings of the time. While the Constitution outlaws sexual discrimination, other issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and same-sex relationships were barely thought of in the 1940s. Freedom from discrimination on the grounds of disability, which has been dealt with in subsequent legislation, is another lacuna in the Constitution. However, matters which were not dealt with explicitly in Article 14 can
often be argued for with reference to Article 13, which refers to the 'right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'.