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Japan ranks lowest among G20 in 2018 women parliamentarians ratio

Regional revitalization minister Satsuki Katayama, the sole female in Shinzo Abe's reshuffled Cabinet inaugurated a day earlier, arrives at the Cabinet Office in Tokyo on Oct. 3, 2018. (Kyodo)

GENEVA (Kyodo) -- Japan ranked the lowest among members of the Group of 20 major economies in a 2018 global ranking on representation of women in parliament, coming 165th among 193 countries, an annual report by an international organization showed Tuesday.

    Japan fell seven places from a year earlier despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy of pushing for women's empowerment, with many female politicians having pointed to difficulties in balancing political activities and family.

    Japan's ratio of female lawmakers in its lower house, at just 10.2 percent, compares with a world average of 24.3 percent, up 13 percentage points from 1995, according to the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union, which compared the share of women in lower or single chambers in 2018.

    Japan was the only member of the Group of Seven major industrialized countries that ranked lower than 100th, it said.

    By country, Rwanda topped the list with women occupying 61.3 percent of seats. Latin American countries rose in the rankings, with Cuba and Mexico coming second and third, respectively.

    By region, the Americas continued to be at the top, with the proportion of women in parliament surpassing 30 percent for the first time, backed by advances in Latin American countries such as Grenada and Costa Rica, which ranked fourth and sixth, respectively.

    The Americas were followed by Europe at 28.5 percent, Sub-Saharan Africa at 23.7 percent, and Asia at 19.6 percent.

    More than 130 countries have introduced a quota policy guaranteeing women a certain level of representation, the report said, adding evidence from elections held in 2018 demonstrates well-designed quotas can pave the way to greater gender parity.

    Satsuki Katayama, who is in charge of women's empowerment in Abe's Cabinet and is currently the only female minister in it, told reporters the country needs more measures to help women compete in elections.

    "Japan has a unique climate hindering women from becoming candidates. I will call on political parties to improve the situation ahead of unified local elections" slated for April, the minister said.

    "It's shocking. We need to increase women candidates," said Kiyomi Tsujimoto, a female House of Representatives member of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, about the report.

    "I can barely manage my political activities with support from my family," said Yasue Funayama, a female House of Councillors member of the opposition Democratic Party for the People. "It's difficult to change the situation without a numerical target such as a quota system."

    Japan introduced in May last year a law to promote women's participation in politics. The law called on political parties to set targets for female candidates but it is unclear how effective it will be as it is nonbinding and does not penalize violators.

    The government has been aiming to raise the proportion of women candidates in national elections to 30 percent by 2020. The figure stood at 17.7 percent in the lower house election in October 2017.

    At the local government level, almost 80 percent of female assembly members told a Cabinet Office survey in 2018 that they found it difficult to balance political activities and family.

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