Actively Field More Female Candidates in Elections

Even now that women’s participation in society is taken for granted, significant hurdles still stand in the way of their participation in politics. Political parties will be put to the test over how to increase the number of women involved in politics.

The World Economic Forum, a private Swiss research organization, has released its 2023 global gender equality rankings. Japan ranked 125th out of 146 countries, a drop of nine places from the previous year and the lowest ever. It was the lowest among the Group of Seven advanced nations.

Of the four areas evaluated, there was little disparity between men and women in educational opportunities and health, but in the areas of political participation (138th) and economy (123rd), the disparity was noted to be greater than in other countries.

Many women are now in positions to lead their countries in Europe, as was the case last year in Italy, where Giorgia Meloni became the first female prime minister.

Although the number of female politicians is gradually increasing in Japan as well, it is obvious that their presence is not felt internationally. The current situation in which only 10.3% of the lawmakers in the House of Representatives are female and there are only two female ministers in the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may have contributed to the low evaluation.

Factors that hinder women’s entry into politics may include the difficulty of balancing work and family life and the stereotyped notion that politics is the exclusive domain of men. The government and ruling and opposition parties need to face up to the current situation and consider how to deal with it.

In 2018, the law on the promotion of gender equality in the political field, which requires political parties to make efforts to equalize the number of male and female candidates for national elections and local assembly member elections as much as possible, was enacted as lawmaker-initiated legislation. Each party has a responsibility to encourage women’s political participation by recruiting outstanding talent.

With the advancement of women’s participation in politics, it will become possible to incorporate their unique perspectives into policies. It is important to reflect in policies diverse opinions on issues that are closely related to women, such as measures to address the declining birth rate and the problem of nonregular employment.

Meanwhile, the number of female politicians is increasing in rural areas. In the latest unified local elections, about 2,900 women were elected to prefectural and municipal assembly members, accounting for 19.9% of all those elected.

Women’s participation in politics will also help resolve the shortage of people seeking to become local assembly members. They may also be expected to be lawmakers who lead national politics in the future.

In recent years, there has been a problem of female candidates being sexually harassed and defamed. For example, a voter asked a female candidate out on dates in return for his vote and voters have criticized female candidates’ appearance.

If this situation is left unchecked, the number of women aspiring to be in politics will not increase. Local governments should consider providing consultation services and educating voters to deal with such issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 29, 2023)