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Legislators in Japan say 43% ratio of female lawmakers desirable: survey

This file photo shows a House of Councillors plenary session at the Japanese parliament in March 2019. (Kyodo)

TOKYO -- The ratio of women to all National Diet legislators desired by lawmakers comes to 43% on average, according to a recent survey of lawmakers regarding gender equality in politics.

The actual ratios of female legislators stand at just 10% in the House of Representatives and 21% in the House of Councillors, but the survey results suggest that legislators are trying to respect the spirit of the Act on Promotion of Gender Equality in the Political Field, which requires political parties to "make the numbers of male and female candidates as even as possible in elections."

Nevertheless, the number of female candidates fielded by each political party for the July 21 House of Councillors election varies widely, from 8% to 71% depending on the party. The national election will be the first since the law was passed unanimously by a plenary session of the upper house in May 2018.

The Mainichi Shimbun and a research lab led by political scientist and Sophia University professor Mari Miura surveyed all 703 legislators -- 462 members of the House of Representatives and 241 legislators belonging to the House of Councillors -- on women's participation in politics. Of them, 140 individuals -- 78 lower house members and 62 upper house members -- had replied by July 18. The 140 respondents comprised 101 men and 39 women.

While the average percentage of female members to all Diet legislators desired by the respondents came to 43%, many of those who took the survey cited 50% as the figure that legislatures should aim for.

In the survey, legislators were asked what institutional reforms were required to increase the number of female lawmakers, and to select two options they would prioritize. The most popular option, at 49%, was "Stipulate legal requirements on the percentage of women in political parties' rosters among their candidates in proportional representation elections." One in four respondents called for more subsidies for political parties with higher percentages of female legislators. Some 23% chose "Stipulate legal requirements on the percentage of female candidates in local constituencies," while 21% pointed to the need to increase the number of proportional representation seats to help women win more seats.

The survey also asked legislators what changes they thought would occur if the ratio of female Diet members increased to around 30% -- the minimum ratio believed to be necessary to bring significant changes to national and local legislatures as well as policies.

Seventy-nine percent replied that more consideration would be given to the work-and-life balance of legislators. A total of 76% of men and 89% of women selected this option.

On the other hand, there is a wide perception gap between male and female lawmakers over whether sexual harassment in the legislature would decrease -- with 64% of women and only 28% of men selecting this answer.

(Japanese original by Shinichiro Nishida, Political News Department)

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