Back-to-back unanimous votes draw praise from Minister in Charge of Women’s Empowerment, but will anything really change?

On Wednesday, the House of Councilors, the upper of Japan’s two houses of parliament, ratified a law seeking to increase the role of women in politics. In a unanimous vote of the all-members meeting, legislators approved a law which, if implemented effectively, would result in an equal number of male and female candidates in national and local elections.

The proposed law had already been approved by the lower House of Representatives, also by a unanimous vote. With approval from both houses of the Diet secure, the law becomes effective immediately.

Seiko Noda, concurrently Japan’s Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication and Minister in Charge of Women’s Empowerment, was predictably pleased with the outcome, saying:

“I am happy the law has been created, and I hope, and believe, that it will lead to great changes in Japan’s government. By reminding voters that government is not a job for men only, I hope this will give courage to women who have been hesitant to stand up and announce their candidacies.”

However, it’s not guaranteed that change will be as swift or sweeping as Noda hopes for. For starters, though the law formalizes a responsibility for political parties and organizations to make an effort to field as equal a number as possible of male and female candidates, implementation of such policies is being left up to the organizations themselves. What qualifies as a satisfactory effort is still murky, as is how small-scale of elections the law applies to, though at the opposite end its scope includes parliamentary elections.

There’s also, at the moment, no clear framework for enforcing the law, as no penalties have been formalized even should a party be found to have failed to make a proper effort to promote an equal number of male and female candidates.

Without any teeth, the law, in its current form, seems to be more of a moral victory for its supporters than anything else. However, as Noda alluded to, its goal may simply be to dramatically remind women with political ambitions, and voters, in Japan that female politicians can be as effective as their male counterparts.

Source: NHK News Web via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso