SEATTLE, Washington — Women’s rights are issues that many have overlooked for far too long. The perception that women are best tasked with familial purposes such as housework, mothering and taking care of the rest of the family is incredibly outdated. However, this belief still persists in some countries, which is the problem facing the advocacy for women’s rights in Japan.
Discrimination in Education and Workplaces
Unfortunately, this problem with women’s rights affects Japanese medical universities when considering female applicants. There was a big scandal in Japan that involved medical schools raising the scores of male applicants on entrance exams to limit the number of women accepted.
Some argue that this is because female doctors are more likely to quit mid-career or take extended leaves for marriage or childbirth. In interviews, medical schools only asked women, “What will you do when you want to marry or have children?” Not only is this question sexist, but schools also use it to root out women who one day want to have a family. It’s as if being a doctor and having a family at the same time is not possible.
Women’s in the Economy and Politics
This discrimination against women also attributes to Japan’s incredibly low numbers of women participating in the economy and politics. For context, Japan was ranked 121st out of 153 countries in this year’s World Economic Forum’s gender gap index, with women’s participation in the economy and politics being 115th and 144th, respectively. From 2018, Japan’s ranking is down 11. Their rankings for women’s participation in the economy and politics are up 2 and down 19, respectively. This shows that the country has a lot of work to do when it comes to women’s rights in Japan. Additionally, while the ratio of women entering universities is growing, it is still growing at a slower rate than most countries, highlighting Japan’s need to stop undervaluing women.
Additionally, there are cultural aspects in Japan that inherently work against women. There is a stigma against sexual assault accusations, with immense victim-blaming within their society. This leads to about 95% of victims of sexual assault and rape not reporting their attack to the police. There are governmental problems hindering equality for women as well. However, Japan recently updated its sex crime law in 2017. Yet, they still do not include consent (or lack thereof) as the basis for sexual assault.
As mentioned before, there are incredibly few women in Japanese politics. Additionally, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Womenomics” initiative to include more women in politics, there has not been much progress. In his own cabinet, there is only one woman, Satsuki Katayama, who serves as the Minister of State for Gender Equality and the Minister in charge of Women’s Empowerment.
However, despite these grim realities, the country is making some progress. More women and movements are being vocal about these issues. They are helping to create change at the governmental level, as with the sex crime law reforms. More women are getting a higher education and entering the workforce. However, there is still much work to be done for women’s rights in Japan, starting with Japan’s outdated cultural ideas about women’s roles in society.
– Saayom Ghosh