Japanese parties vie to boost number of female lawmakers ahead of election


Japanese political parties are competing with each other to promote female candidates ahead of a lower house election that must be held by this fall, but some worry that, like similar efforts before, the initiative may be more sloganeering than a harbinger of real change.

With Japan's male-dominated political world forming a large part of the reason why the country places a shocking 120th out of 156 countries in a gender gap ranking, many parties have or are considering setting numerical goals for female candidates.

In the Diet, women comprised just 9.9 percent of lawmakers in the powerful lower house, or House of Representatives, and 22.9 percent in the House of Councillors as of June 2020 as Japan found itself ranking as low as 147th in the political field in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index for 2020.

Taimei Yamaguchi, chair of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Election Strategy Committee, said recently that he felt "a strong sense of crisis" about the country's standing in the gender gap index. "There is room to further promote women's participation" in politics, also including in local assemblies, he said.

Since the LDP, currently holding some 60 percent of seats in the lower house, is likely to have many successful candidates, the level of increase in its female lawmakers will be a direct indication of its seriousness on the issue.

The party's committee on women's empowerment put forward some proposed goals in April ahead of the lower house election. These include requiring 15 percent of all the party's candidates to be women and giving top slots to female hopefuls in at least three out of the 11 regional electoral blocks under the proportional representation system.

The LDP has previously prioritized female candidates in the proportional representation system. In the 2005 lower house poll, it placed 13 female candidates at the top of proportional representation lists, which resulted in eight of them winning seats, excluding those who ended up taking seats by winning in single-seat constituencies. That effort was overseen by the ruling party's current No. 2, Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai.

But the hurdles are high this time around.

Currently, most of the 289 single-seat constituencies have male incumbents, and among them, weaker candidates who are hoping to ensure they retain seats in the lower house via simultaneous inclusion in the proportional representation lists under the duplicate candidacy system are certain to oppose being ranked lower than female candidates.

"We cannot produce results unless the LDP head or the secretary general makes a bold decision," an LDP source said.

Opposition parties, meanwhile, appear committed to change. The Democratic Party for the People has vowed in its policy platform to aim for women to comprise 35 percent of all candidates.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has mentioned the possibility of new legislation to resolve the gender gap issue. The party's executive deputy leader Renho wrote on Twitter, "I want to form a society where it is a matter of course for a woman to strive toward being a politician."

According to the Cabinet Office, the CDPJ has said it will first aim to have female lawmakers account for 30 percent of its total members before ultimately targeting 50 percent. The Japanese Communist Party has also set a goal of 50 percent of female lawmakers in its organization.

The LDP, its ruling coalition partner Komeito, and the Japan Innovation Party had not set numerical goals as of the end of March, the Cabinet Office said.

Meanwhile, with women often held back from entering politics by situations they face, questions must be raised about whether parties have sufficient support systems in place.

It is not rare, for instance, for women to give up running for a Diet seat due to opposition from family members, while competing in elections in regional areas can bring its own special challenges with regard to campaigning and the need to attend frequent evening meetings that make them think twice about joining a race.

"Whether a party is serious (about increasing the number of female lawmakers) can be seen in its measures to foster female candidates and in its steps against harassment," said journalist Renge Jibu.

"I hope voters will judge the parties by their attitude and not just by the numbers (of female candidates)," she said.

"We also need to persistently and sternly check whether the parties have achieved what they have promised so that their PR (to promote female lawmakers) will not end as just a one-off 'carnival show' for the election," she said.


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Yeah, sure.

Those female lawmakers will be standing in the "frontline", with their male "supervisors" singing:

"Every step you take, every move you make, ... I'll be watching you"

0 ( +1 / -1 )

but some worry that, like similar efforts before, the initiative may be more sloganeering than a harbinger of real change.

You think? The same campaigns are thrown out every cycle, like with the "Koizumi children".

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What is the point of rushing to place female lawmakers when you undermine them and discard them soon after? Abe tried to add more female lawmakers, then every single one was forced to resign over a scandal, yet somehow male lawmakers stick around after multiple scandals, and these female lawmakers end up having their voices muted. In every campaign since, there hasn't been a push for female lawmakers and the party was elected just fine. I don't want female lawmakers just for your photo op. Actually give them a voice.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's one thing to say you want more women holding seats of power, but that alone is not enough. You need to actually support them, put an end to sexism, ensure they get paid the same rate as their male counterparts and also make sure that they can not only speak, but be heard as well. Saying you'll increase the number of women in politics means nothing if you also tell them that they can only have those positions under the condition that they don't say anything. If you really want more women to view politics as a viable option, you have to actually prove that it genuinely is a viable option, and not just a publicity stunt to garner votes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is difficult to feel optimistic about this with sexist comments and attitudes still very much present in the Japanese politics, but maybe this can actually be part of the very necessary change that inevitably will come.

Lets see how many are selected to run for positions, how many elected and how many make a difference at their posts.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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