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Japan's LDP freezes plan to have female lawmakers attend meetings without voting rights

A Liberal Democratic Party Headquarters sign is seen in this file photo taken in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. (Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)

TOKYO -- Plans for female lawmakers to sit in on executive meetings of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have been frozen for the time being in favor of direct exchanges with the party's secretary general following a barrage of criticism that it would be "meaningless" for them to take part in meetings where they didn't have the right to speak or vote.

    Seiko Noda, executive acting secretary-general of the LDP, announced the change of plans in a news conference on Feb. 22.

    Noda said the initial plan, met with criticism from many female lawmakers, had been proposed by Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai. Instead, they are set to have face-to-face talks with Nikai on plans to improve how female lawmakers are utilized in government.

    Following the lifting of the state of emergency that remains in place in some parts of Japan due to the spread of the coronavirus, it's expected that a number of meetings with limited groups of lawmakers from the House of Representatives and House of Councillors will be held.

    Noda said, "It was felt (by female lawmakers) that direct talks with the party executives, the secretary general and others were necessary, so we would like to establish meetings for an exchange of views in the near future." At the same press conference, Nikai said, "We will be thoroughly taking up the opinions which should be taken up."

    In response to the sexism scandal that surrounded President Yoshiro Mori, former president of Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the LDP's internal group for advancement of female lawmakers, whose joint representative is former Policy Research Council Chairperson Tomomi Inada, issued an emergency proposal to Nikai on Feb. 15, calling for women's involvement in each meeting to be increased.

    At an extraordinary meeting on Feb. 16, Nikai issued instructions that the number of female lawmakers at meetings of the party's General Council and other executive gatherings be upped.

    But it emerged that the LDP did not plan to give women who would additionally attend voting or speaking rights, and that the female lawmakers would "participate as in the form of observers," in the words of General Council Chairperson Tsutomu Sato. The move sparked criticism from female lawmakers and foreign media asking whether their role was limited to being onlookers.

    (Japanese original by Minami Nomaguchi, Political News Department)

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