A law enacted last week marks a symbolic first step in the effort to boost the number of female members in the Diet and local and prefectural assemblies — an area where Japan lags far behind most other advanced nations. It is nonbinding legislation that urges political parties to try to “equalize as much as possible” the number of male and female candidates they field in national and local elections. This means that whether the law will have any effect is up to the efforts of each party.
Since the legislation won unanimous endorsement in the Diet, all political parties need to make serious efforts to make good on its objectives. The targets that the law urges each party to set should serve as a guide for voters in judging where they stand on the issue.
Politics remains a male-centric world in this country. The government has set a target of increasing the ratio of women in leadership positions to 30 percent by 2020, but politics is the area where progress appears to be the most lacking. The gender imbalance as it stands is undesirable, especially because tough challenges confronting the nation require policy responses from more diverse perspectives than male-dominated politics can offer.
When women in Japan gained the right to vote at the national level in 1946, 39 women were elected to the Lower House that year, accounting for 8.4 percent of all successful candidates. More than seven decades on, 47 women were elected to the Lower House in the snap election last October, occupying 10.1 percent of the chamber’s seats. Japan ranks 158th out of the 193 countries surveyed by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union in terms of the ratio of female members of the lower house of parliament. Its rank is…