Plunge Pontificates

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Long Live Sexism in Japan!

Excellent article showing the difficulties in Japan and the recent attempt to allow a woman to sit on the royal throne.

Just when it seemed gender equality in Japan was poised to make a significant leap forward, legislation that would have permitted an empress to reign has been shelved, while a new poll shows public support for the measure dropping.

The recent surprise announcement that 39-year-old Princess Kiko, the emperor's daughter-in-law, is pregnant has forced Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to abandon his reform plans, handing victory to ultraconservatives who bitterly oppose the idea of a woman on the throne. Whether Japan changes its male-only imperial succession law now appears to depend on the gender of

Princess Kiko's unborn child.
Here's hoping the child is a girl so the debate can continue! It is just ridiculous in this modern age, in a modern country that there would be opposition to having a woman on the throne.

The episode reveals the formidable power of Japan's diehard male chauvinists and exposes the deep-seated anti-female bias at the heart of the Japanese establishment. Recent events are also a concrete example of why gender advances in Japan are always so painfully slowly, halfhearted or fail to materialize at all.

Unlike its European counterparts, Japan's brand of constitutional monarchy does not allow a woman to sit upon the Chrysanthemum Throne, a glaring anomaly that contradicts the government's stated goal of creating a gender-equal society. Despite the emperor being a potent national symbol, the 1947 Imperial House Law stipulates that only males can ascend the throne, and no woman has reigned in more than 200 years.


A hardline group of male lawmakers gathered in Tokyo, where their leader, former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma, expressed the fears of many conservatives, "If Princess Aiko becomes the reigning empress and gets involved with a blue-eyed foreigner while studying abroad and marries him, their child may be the emperor."
I'm amazed at the power of the ultra-conservatives in Japan. I'm also amazed that they would make such sexist / racist remarks.

The traditionalists' victory has also had an effect on public opinion, with an Asahi Shimbun poll released on Tuesday showing support for the empress succession law down to 66%. The same polled had registered 86% in January 2005. The new poll also showed that the traditionalist camp potentially holds the upper hand in the debate as 60% supported delaying the legislation.

Still, the battle is not yet lost; if Princess Kiko's baby is a girl, which many hope, then the whole debate will be back to Square 1. However, the ultraconservatives have demonstrated that they are a formidable force, and even with public support and a powerful prime minister, the fight for gender equality in Japan will be an uphill struggle.
Again, here's hoping the child is a girl! One of the few times I've appreciated Koizumi as he supported allowing an empress to sit on the throne against massive pressure from the opposition. Too bad he doesn't do this with other issues.