Gender equality long overdue / U.N. set to rap govt stance on women’s rights, marriage law, education

The U.N. watchdog panel on gender equality is poised to issue recommendations to Japan in which it will address this nation’s delay in implementing policies to bring about equality between men and women.

The government should humbly accept the findings of the expert U.N. panel known as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and lawmakers are urged to buckle down and begin implementing a wide range of gender equality measures.

The pact that sets out the principles covering equality of the sexes–officially called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women–was adopted by a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in 1979. Japan ratified the convention in 1985.

Known as the women’s rights version of the Bill of Rights, the convention stipulates the equality of women and men in political and public activities, calls for the prohibition of sexual exploitation of women and inequality in access to education and employment, as well as discrimination on the basis of sex in marital and family relations.

Japan severely criticized

 Yoko Osawa, a member of a Japanese nongovernmental body called mNet-Information Network for Amending the Civil Code, who sat in on the committee session, said, “Most members of the Japanese government delegation made a point of repeating prepared, boilerplate explanations of systems and laws in response to the various questions posed by the CEDAW members.

“Several CEDAW members pulled the translation headphones out of their ears, apparently because they were so disgusted,” Osawa said.

As lawyer Mikiko Otani, an expert in international human rights law, put it, “The way the Japanese officials responded to the panel members should be considered a reflection of their lack of knowledge of the U.N. treaty and also Japan’s lack of a sense of responsibility as a signatory country to the treaty.”

“I think Japan, a country that seeks to hold a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, should be ashamed of being subject to such criticism from the gender equality panel,” she added.

The pact for abolishing discrimination against women has led Japan to enact a number of laws, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in 1985 and laws requiring both boys and girls to take a homemaking course in middle school and high school, enacted in 1993 and 1994, respectively.

Japan ranked 58th among 108 countries on the most recent U.N. index on women’s social participation, one of the the lowest among industrially advanced nations.

Highlighting the disparity between women and men in this nation, women account for less than 10 percent of the members of the House of Representatives, while women section chiefs in private sector companies stand at a mere 6.6 percent.

Optional Protocol left unratified

 Every one of this nation’s lawmakers should be held responsible for failing to pay due attention to the international gender equality treaty and related U.N. recommendations that have resulted in delays in ending the disparities that disadvantage women.

A legislator-sponsored bill calling for a revision of the Civil Code in response to CEDAW recommendations has been repeatedly presented to the Diet. But the bill that would delete provisions that discriminate against women has been scrapped every time without in-depth deliberation.

Japan’s failure to ratify the Optional Protocol on the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women also is being questioned by the international community.

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20090730TDY04302.htm

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