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Japan: Female Participation in Politics Still Lags
Source: the-japan-news.com
Source Date: Sunday, July 17, 2016
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Japan
Created: Jul 20, 2016

A record 28 women won seats in the latest House of Councillors election. The number of female upper house members increased by 12 to 50, accounting for 20 percent of the total, but Japan still trails other developed countries in terms of female participation in politics.

There were 96 female candidates in the latest election, down nine from the previous upper house contest in 2013. The number of female winners increased by six from the 2013 election to 28, with 17 elected from constituencies and 11 from the proportional representation section. This figure surpassed the previous record of 26 female winners in the 2007 upper house election. The proportion of women among total election winners also marked a record high of 23.1 percent.

Sophia University Prof. Mari Miura, an expert on political science, said, “While the number of women elected from the proportional representation section remained unchanged from past elections at around 10, what is noteworthy in the latest election is the drastic increase of women elected from constituencies.”

Especially in constituencies in which only one seat was up for grabs, strong female candidates ran as unified opposition candidates and won seats, which significantly contributed to the increase, according to Miura.

“If the number of women who can win elections increases, more will run for election, leading female voters to feel closer to politics. A virtuous cycle will be created,” Miura said.

If the number of female lawmakers increases, experts say more effective policies can be expected in fields where women play major roles, such as child-rearing and nursing care. Additionally, measures to address the declining birthrate are expected to progress through a review of conventional social systems and other means in order to create a society where double-income couples can have and raise children more easily.

However, internationally Japan is lagging in terms of female participation in politics. According to statistics issued in June by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which consists of parliaments from countries around the world, women accounted for 9.5 percent of Japan’s House of Representatives members, placing it 155th among 191 countries. This figure is far below the over 40 percent in Sweden and Finland, and the around 30 percent in Germany, Italy, Britain and several other countries.

A number of female leaders are making their presence felt overseas. In Rome, lawyer Virginia Raggi was elected as the city’s first female mayor in June. In the United States, Hillary Clinton is aiming to become the first female U.S. president.

In the Fourth Basic Plan for Gender Equality, adopted by the Cabinet in December last year, the government instituted a goal to increase the percentage of women candidates in both the lower and upper house elections to 30 percent by 2020. Its aim was to promote the active role of women in politics.

Katsunobu Kato, the minister in charge of promoting the dynamic engagement of all citizens, has asked political parties to consider their own measures to increase the percentage of female party members, executives and national election candidates.

To increase the number of female Diet members, parties jointly created a bill aimed at making the numbers of male and female candidates equal. However, relevant lawmakers failed to reach an agreement in the previous ordinary Diet session.

Misako Iwamoto, a professor of political science at Mie University, called for a further increase in the number of female politicians, saying: “The increase in the number of female winners in the latest election is commendable, but women account for only 20 percent of the upper house members. It is said that if they exceed 30 percent, the presence of women will become visible. Given this, we need more female lawmakers.”

“Political parties advocating more active roles for women or gender equality should take the initiative in efforts such as making the male-female ratio of their candidates equal,” she continued. “Half of Japanese people are women, and it is important to send female lawmakers with various backgrounds to the Diet.”

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