Johnny’s Sexual Assult

When the issues of Johnny Kitagawa’s sexual assault emerged, there were differences in the responses among Japanese companies that tried to terminate commercial contracts with talent from the Johnny & Associates, Inc.

Many of the companies that decided to terminate their contracts cited the fact that continuing to do business with Johnny’s company as a violation of their human rights policies. Since the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were adopted by the United Nations in 2011, it has been recognized that companies in any country or region have a responsibility to respect human rights, and that each company is required to establish a “human rights policy” that shows its commitment to respecting human rights, and to take remedial measures to correct any negative impact on human rights.

In Japan, however, the human rights policies are still left to individual companies. Many countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., have the laws that make it mandatory for companies to take human rights actions and penalize them for violations. Even without penalties, consumer boycotts and class action lawsuits have been filed against companies that respond inappropriately to human rights violations in those countries. Thus, it has become a global trend for corporate management to consider not only the pursuit of profit but also human rights risks.

It goes without saying that the sexual assault by Johnny Kitagawa is a clear violation of the human rights of minors. For this reason, the choice of whether to continue doing business with the company that retains the name of Johnny was a question of human rights. As a result, the fact that many Japanese companies were forced to terminate their contracts with the Johnny’s company may indicate that an increasing number of people in Japan are taking a hard look at how companies respond to human rights violations that occur at their business partners.

As Johnny & Associates, Inc. is Japan’s leading entertainment production company, it is necessary to consider this case not only from the aspect of Johnny Kitagawa’s personal misconduct, but also from the perspective of a lack of corporate governance appropriate for the size and content of the business. Other domestic companies that accept talent from an entertainment production need to pay attention to the governance system of the production, including whether the management fully respects the human rights of the talent, and if there are any problems, demand improvements, or withhold business if there are no improvements.

I hope that Johnny Kitagawa case will deepen the discussion on “business and human rights” in Japan and lead to the enactment of laws requiring domestic companies to respond to human rights issues like those in other countries.

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