Change in Awareness among Diet Members, the Media, and Voters, in Addition to Better Legislation, Needed to Increase Female Diet Member Numbers
Japan ranked 110th in last year’s Global Gender Gap Index, the lowest position of any G7 nation. Japan’s National Diet has very few female representatives, and the country ranked extremely low at 125th on the Political Empowerment subindex. We asked gender and politics expert Associate Professor Yuki Tsuji about how Japan can overcome this situation and ensure more women enter the world of politics.
Interviewer: Masayoshi Nakane
Question: Your field of research is gender and politics. What first sparked your interest in this field and what were your motivations for studying it?
Answer: After graduating from university, I found a job at a company in the private sector. I noticed, however, that many of the female employees who were slightly older than me resigned after they got married or had a child. It made me much more aware of gender issues in Japanese society. That was when I started considering the possibility of studying the intersection of gender and politics. The Basic Act for Gender Equal Society took effect in 1999 and, as we entered the new millennium, many people were talking about how both men and women could balance work and home life. I felt like it was the ideal time to embark on research into gender studies.
Q: The number of female world leaders is increasing—German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, for example. What needs to be done to increase the number of female leaders in Japan?
A: The main reason we haven’t seen an increase in the number of female Diet members is that the ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, has a very low proportion of female Diet members. The Act on Promotion of Gender Equality in the Political Field came into effect last year to ensure more equal gender representation among candidates. The law is nonbinding, but I believe the number of women in politics will start to increase gradually.
Q: There was some criticism of a female Diet member who used her official car to carry out childcare duties.
A: I think the media and the public need to discuss and fundamentally reconsider what they expect from Diet members as their political representatives.
We need more female Diet members, but we also need, for example, Diet members who are members of sexual minorities or who have disabilities to propose new legislation from viewpoints that have not been represented in the Diet before. If these people are asking questions in the Diet, then voter perspectives on Diet members might change as well.
France has amended its Constitution to include a parity principle promoting a 50/50 balance between male and female members of Parliament. In recent years, a number of countries have implemented institutional reforms and initiatives to expand the number of female political representatives. Japan should pay close attention to this trend for future reference. It will also be necessary to create a more transparent selection process for Diet member candidates in Japan, that is, the nomination methods used by political parties to select candidates for particular electoral districts. The system in the United States is extremely transparent as party members are responsible for selecting candidates through primaries. The party itself has very little control over the process. This system ensures that the views of voters are reflected in the final combination of candidates.
Q: What message would you give to people who are interested in studying politics and gender?
A: Tokai University has many faculties, and professors specializing in gender theory can be found in a number of different departments. The university provides the ideal environment for integrated studies—students can select politics as their field of study and then combine it with their particular area of interest. The university’s comprehensive fieldwork program also allows students to go out into the field and gain new experiences. I hope that prospective students will see these advantages and consider choosing Tokai University.
Now that 18-year-olds are eligible to vote, high schools are providing citizenship education for their students. I hope that we will play an active part in this process, showing students the appeal of political science and how it is a part of their daily lives.
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, School of Political Science and Economics
Graduated from the Faculty of Law at Kyoto University in 2000. Completed a doctoral course in legal and political studies and awarded a Doctor of Laws from the Graduate School of Law at Kyoto University in March 2011. Studied in the Graduate Program in Political Science at York University (Toronto, Canada) for two years, starting in September 2006.