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'Have a seat but shut up please': Whither equality?

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Japan is 3rd biggest economy but on gender parity it lags behind badly
Japan is 3rd biggest economy but on gender parity it lags behind badly
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'Dumb dolls' may soon be adorning board meetings of Japan's ruling party. As per a news report, in response to criticisms that its board is dominated by men, Japan's ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has condescended to allow 5 female lawmakers to join its board meetings provided they keep their mouths shut and do not talk during the meetings. Their status will be that of observers to see how decisions were being made. They would not be able to speak during the meetings but could submit their opinions later to the secretariat office. According to the party's 82-year-old secretary general, this move would allow more female LDP members to see how decisions were being made.

This is shocking and disturbing news, more so as it comes from a country that is touted as the world's 3rd-largest economy. What can be more humiliating to women than this mockery of their right to voice their opinion, and be subservient to their male counterparts despite being equally (or even more) qualified than them? This 'dumb-doll syndrome' is conservative liberalism at its best in the world's third-largest economy wallowing in gender disparity. Currently only 2 of LDP's 12 board members are women and only 3 of its 25-member general council are women.


Japan is a living example that economic development does not necessarily lead to gender justice. Despite being a highly developed and modern society, it has high levels of gender inequality. It has ranked 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Gender Gap Report- the worst ranking gap among advanced countries - and scores poorly on women's economic participation and political empowerment.

Some poor economies in the region have ranked much higher - Bangladesh ranked 50, Nepal 101, Sri Lanka 102 and India 112.

Japan's law requiring married couples to use the same surname is yet another obstacle to women's empowerment and abets women's subordination. In December 2019, a policy draft for gender equality, which made recommendations for allowing different surnames after marriage, was dropped after being stalled by conservative lawmakers. Japan is the only country in the world that does not officially allow married couples to have different surnames.

Also, while women represent 44% of the entire Japanese workforce, most of them (44%) are part-time or temporary workers, as compared to 12% of employed men. Moreover, Japan's gender pay gap is the second largest among OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development - a network of 37 nations) countries, after South Korea. In 2019, Japanese women earned 23.5% less than their male counterparts.

Cultural norms and stereotypes exclude women from leadership positions. Out of 192 countries, Japan ranks 167th in women's representation in government. In 2019, only 5.3% of board directors in Japanese companies were women. This is just a little above Indonesia (3.3%) and Kenya (2.1%).

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