Japan’s ruling party wants women – not their views – at meetings

Liberal Democratic Party proposes allowing female legislators join key party meetings as observers, amid growing complaints over sexism.

Women in traditional costumes walk beneath decorations for the upcoming new year, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Tokyo, Japan [File: Kim Kyung Hoon/ Reuters]

After a sexism row sparked by Tokyo Olympics chief’s saying women talked too much at meetings, Japan’s ruling party has said it wants women to attend key meetings – but only if they do not talk.

Under the new proposals, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will allow five female legislators to join the party’s main meetings as observers.

Toshihiro Nikai, the party’s secretary-general, said on Tuesday that he had heard criticism that the party’s board was male-dominated.

He noted that the board members were elected, but said it was important for the party’s female members to “look” at the party’s decision-making process.

“It is important to fully understand what kind of discussions are happening. Take a look, is what it is about,” Nikai said at a news conference late on Tuesday.

The female observers will not be allowed to speak during the meetings, but will be able to submit opinions separately to the secretariat office, the daily newspaper Nikkei reported.

Yoshiro Mori, the head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organising committee, resigned last week amid worldwide outrage over derogatory comments he made about women, claiming they spoke too much at meetings and made them too long.

The 83-year-old former prime minister’s remarks highlighted deep-rooted sexism within Japanese society.

Japan is ranked 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Index – the worst among advanced countries – scoring poorly on women’s economic participation and political empowerment.

This week, a group of the LDP’s female legislators asked Nikai to increase the ratio of women in key posts at the party.

But requiring female observers at meetings to remain quiet has drawn criticism on social media that the party is out of touch.

Twitter users say the party’s male-centric view has not changed despite the Mori controversy.

“People will just put women on them as a kind of PR exercise,” Belinda Wheaton, a cultural sociologist at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, told Reuters.

“I think it’s probably time to be asking questions as to why it is that we feel that men in their 70s or 80s are able to fulfil these roles better versus a man in their 40s or 50s, or a woman,” she added.

Also making the rounds on social media were comments by a senior official speaking to a business lobby group who said Japan’s glass ceiling was “partly women’s fault”.

Source: Reuters