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Opposition to gender equality in election candidacy proof that glass ceiling is intact

A lawmaker-initiated bill urging political parties to promote gender equality when choosing candidates in elections for both national and local assemblies has come to a standstill, due to opposition from conservatives within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

    Although the party leadership is aiming to submit the bill to the current session of the Diet, there is little chance of it passing, which could invite criticism that the LDP is moving against the cause of women's advancement upheld by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    The bill, whose draft has primarily been created by former chairman of the LDP General Council, Seiko Noda, and other LDP legislators, clearly stipulates the goal of making the number of male and female candidates in Diet and regional assembly elections as equal as possible. In addition to obliging political parties to make the effort to set targets for male and female candidate numbers, the bill, if passed, would require the national and local governments to carry out investigations into the state of women's participation in politics and to raise public awareness. However, since the bill's emphasis is on the principle of gender equality, even if it is passed, there is no guarantee gender equality in elections will be realized right away. It's possible that political party regulations and the Public Offices Election Act will have to be revised if the bill passes.

    "Ms. Noda is in charge of this issue, and I've instructed the task force to conduct thorough discussion in order to submit this bill to the current session of the Diet," LDP Policy Research Council chairman Toshimitsu Motegi told a press conference on Dec. 1. Noda and other lawmakers involved in drafting the bill are set to hold a joint task force meeting as early as next week, but the prospects remain unclear.

    Noda sought the understanding of other LDP members at a joint task force meeting on Nov. 16, but five male and female legislators voiced objections, and a conclusion was postponed. One young female lawmaker argued, "Women who have the will to succeed drag themselves up, so I don't understand the need for such a law." LDP House of Councillors legislator Shoji Nishida, who was also at the meeting, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Women's advancement in the workforce is partially responsible for the declining birthrate. Women who have traditional values, like wanting to protect the household and fully participate in child-rearing, could be kicked out of the home if such a bill were to be passed."

    According to an Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) survey on the number of women in legislatures -- or in the case of bicameral systems, the House of Representatives or the lower house -- Japan ranked 156th worldwide, with women in the Japanese House of Representatives constituting only 9.5 percent of the entire chamber as of November. Among G-7 countries, Japan came in last.

    The glass ceiling is still firmly intact in Japan.

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