More Women In Meetings Sans Voices: Japan’s New Plan

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With complete honesty, I am ready to accept that I am the most talkative person in the house. This is because I am an extrovert by nature. I may not talk sense all the time, but I have given my fair share of logic and wisdom to my family. So as long as I do not drive anyone nuts by jabbering incessantly, where does the problem lie?

Yoshiro Mori, former chief of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, just recently sparked a sexism row. He had said during an online meeting that women talk too much and are driven by a strong sense of rivalry. 

As though that comment itself was not disrespectful enough, he went a step further. On being asked if he really believed what he said, he replied, “I don’t listen to women that much lately, so I don’t know”. Mori, who apologized for his disparaging comment, initially refused to resign but later did step down from his post.

Close on the heels of this incident comes yet another story that is creating headlines. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japan announced that it wanted women involved in its key meetings. A new plan was proposed to allow 5 female lawmakers to be a part of these discussions. 

Stop, there is a clause…

Well, not the time to rejoice yet! The women will be allowed to attend the meetings as long as they remain quiet. They can just be silent observers. If they have any recommendations, they can later submit their opinions to the secretariat office.

Toshihiro Nikai, the Secretary General of LDP, said that it is important for women to fully understand what kind of political discussions take place and that “it’s about letting them take a look”. This decision to allow women to just listen and not participate verbally has unsurprisingly earned backlash.

In the light of this incident, cultural sociologist Belinda Wheaton remarked that including women in the meetings was more of a kind of PR exercise. She expressed: “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.”

Japanese feminist author Mieko Kawakami in her tweet criticized the decision as unacceptable and misogynistic. She voiced that the ruling party members will never understand the issue of gender equality.

Looking back on the #KuToo Movement

It was not too long ago when we heard about the #KuToo movement of Japan in 2019. It was a protest against women being required to wear high-heels in some workplace environments. There was a huge outcry because this dress code applied just to female employees while their male counterparts were allowed to wear light, flat shoes.

A petition was served to ask companies to ban rules which required female employees to wear high heels to work. The labor minister’s indifference came to light when he said that wearing heels was necessary and reasonable in workplaces and is generally accepted in society. 

Economic progress sans gender equality is meaningless!

Japan has the world’s third largest economy, but are all the country’s statistics equally impressive? It is to be noted that its ranking on the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap index was 121 among the 153 countries that were on the list. This gap is the largest among the advanced economies. 

Doesn’t that speak volumes about the unequal status of men and women? The country has a long way to go to break the glass ceiling when it comes to involving women in economic and political spheres.

A nation which is galloping ahead in economic and technological advancement really needs to do better in terms of addressing the rights and privileges of women. We need a more progressive paradigm from the Land of the Rising Sun. May the radiance of the beautiful rays infiltrate to raise awareness and teach the values of equality, acceptance, and broadmindedness.

(This article was featured in Women’s Web )


  1. Well written article Reshmi. Sad but true. We are in 21st century & we just celebrated our first women VP. It shows where we are. We should be celebrating a new VP for this country but not a first time female VP. It took all these years for a women to prove her intelligence, efficiency & resilience to get recognized & accepted for the top political ticket. We still have to continue to work hard to be heard and not just be shown. You have captured it beautifully. Loved it.

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