Japan passes political gender equality law

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The Diet has passed a law to promote gender equality in politics, calling on political parties and other entities to field an equal number of male and female candidates in elections for public office.

 The law was enacted after winning unanimous approval Wednesday from the House of Councillors at a plenary session. It will take effect upon its promulgation.
 The legislation was sponsored by a suprapartisan group of lawmakers. It obliges political parties and organizations to run “to the extent possible, an equal number” of male and female candidates in elections for the House of Representatives, the upper house and local assemblies.
 It also urges political parties and organizations to voluntarily set numerical targets for female candidates, among other discretionary measures. However, questions remain over how to ensure the law’s effectiveness, as its provisions are not legally binding.
 Under the Basic Plan for Gender Equality, which is based on the Basic Law for Gender Equal Society that was enacted in 1999, the government set a goal of raising the proportion of female candidates in national elections for both Diet chambers to 30 percent of the total by 2020.
 The figure stood at 24.7 percent in the upper house election in 2016 and 17.7 percent in the lower house election last year. The proportion of female members in the lower house stands at 10.1 percent.
 According to a survey on the proportion of female lawmakers in lower houses by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which is comprised of parliaments around the world, Japan ranked 158th among 193 nations as of April 1.
 Some countries have succeeded in increasing the number of female lawmakers through such measures as passing laws creating quota systems requiring that a certain number of parliamentary seats or candidacies be filled by women, or by stipulating required proportions of female candidates in political party platforms. The government will likely examine such measures as part of future deliberations.

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