The Present Status of Gender Equality and Measures

Chapter 1 Building Social Systems that Promote Gender Equality

  1. Expanding women's participation in policy decision-making processes
    • The Headquarters for the Promotion of Gender Equality has been working on the appointment of women to councils, etc., toward achieving the objective (decided on 21 May 1996) of 20% female membership in national councils. etc., by the end of FY2000 at the latest. As of the end of September 1998, this figure was 18.3%.
  2. Reviewing social systems and practices and reforming awareness from the perspective of gender equality
    • The Ministry of Labour has designated the week from 10-16 April each year as Women's Week and is carrying out publicity and education toward raising the status of women.
    • The Management and Coordination Agency started a Study Group on Statistics of Unpaid Work from FY1998 to consider concepts, definitions and ways of understanding statistics on unpaid work based on international trends.

Chapter 2 Realizing Gender Equality in the Workplace, Home and Community

  1. Securing equal opportunity and equal treatment in employment, etc.
    • The Ministry of Labour is carrying out educational activities to thoroughly inform enterprise owners, employees and others concerned about the Equal Employment Opportunity Law and Other Measures (the Equal Employment Opportunity Law) toward its full enforcement from April 1999. An overview of the revised Equal Employment Opportunity Law and the contents of the revisions to the Labor Standards Law and the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law are as follows.

    Overview of the revised Equal Employment Opportunity Law

    • Prohibits discrimination against women regarding recruitment, employment, assignment, promotion, education and training, welfare programs, mandatory retirement age, retirement, and dismissal.
    • Provides for the national government to offer consultation or other assistance to enterprise owners who formulate active corporate measures to relieve the disparities which are in fact occurring between male and female employees.
    • Provides for voluntary in-house resolution of complaints, assistance for dispute settlement by the Director of Prefectural Women's and Young Workers' Office and relief through mediation by the Equal Opportunity Mediation Commission in cases where disputes occur.
    • Provides the necessary administrative guidance regarding enforcement of laws in the form of advice, instructions and recommendations.
    • Obligates enterprise owners to give the necessary considerations regarding employee management in order to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
    • Obligates enterprise owners to take measures regarding health management of female employees during pregnancy and after childbirth.

    Partial revision of the Labor Standards Law

    • Relieves regulations on female employees regarding overtime, holiday work and late-night work toward broadening the range of occupation types for women from the standpoint of further promoting equal treatment for men and women.
    • As part of the enhancement of the protection of motherhood, extends the prenatal leave period for multiple pregnancy from 10 weeks to 14 weeks.

    Partial revision of the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law

    • Along with the relaxation of regulations on female employees regarding late-night work, establishes a system of limitations on late-night work regarding a set range of male and female employees who perform child rearing and family care.
  2. Building partnerships in agriculture, forestry and fishing villages
    • The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries carried out various measures in working toward the establishment of partnerships in rural areas which promote participation by women in society. In December 1998, the Ministry put together Principles for Agricultural Policy Reform and Agricultural Policy Reform Program which will serve as guidelines for future food, agriculture and rural area policy promotion, as well as the Agriwelcome Plan for the establishment of women in rural areas. These include clear statements regarding the promotion of efforts toward
    • 1)Assistance in agriculture and rural area policy toward participation by women in society;
    • 2)Assisting entrepreneurial activity by women related to agriculture; and
    • 3)Development of women's capabilities and participation in agricultural management
  3. Supporting men and women in harmonizing their working lives with home and community lives
    • To ensure the flexible provision of high-quality care services tailored to diverse childcare needs, the revision of the Child Welfare Law was put into force in April 1998. The Law included (a) introduction of a mechanism whereby care-takers can send their child/children to a childcare facility they have selected on the basis of information provided by such facilities; (b) clarification of the status of after-school activities for children under the Child Welfare Law; and (c) strengthening of local counseling and support systems through the establishment of support centers for families with children.
    • The Ministry of Labour is promoting the further establishment of child care leave systems and the introduction of the family care leave system which became compulsory from 1 April 1999. The Ministry is also promoting projects which support workers in harmonizing their working lives with home lives.
    • The Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture has established the Home Education Forum, which provides an opportunity for people to consider the image of future homes with cooperation between men and women. In addition, the Ministry also produces and distributes the home education-related materials Handbook on Home Education and Notes on Home Education.
    • The Economic Planning Agency is working to disseminate information on the Law to Promote Specified Non-Profit Activities (NPO Law enforced December 1998), and to develop an environment for promoting volunteer activities, such as by conducting surveys and analyses on the actual state and systems of grassroots activities at home and abroad.
  4. Developing the conditions to allow senior citizens to live with peace of mind
    • Since 1995, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has been implementing the New Gold Plan (a new 10-year strategy for the promotion of the health and welfare of senior citizens) and working on a major expansion of home help services, short stay services and day services, the three mainstays of in-home welfare services.
    • Since FY1998, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has been advancing research and development of telecommunications and broadcast systems which respond to the various disabilities of the elderly and persons with disabilities. Moreover, to expand opportunities for the employment and social participation of the elderly and persons with disabilities, the Ministry has been promoting the establishment of centers for information barrier-free telework, which provide a suitable environment to facilitate telework by these people.

Chapter 3 Creating a Society Which Promotes and Protects the Human Rights of Women

  1. Eliminating all forms of violence against women
    • In recent years, the state of sexually deviant behavior by girls, known as enjo kosai, has become more serious. The police have intensified their efforts to provide guidance and crackdown on the telephone clubs and other institutions which are becoming a focus for this behavior, are cracking down on the adult partners who are involved, and are taking strict action toward the underhand inducement of young women into prostitution. Moreover, the police offer regular support to young female victims, and are working to increase educational activities, focusing on educating young people on standard awareness and shaping public opinion on the prevention of delinquency.
    • In October 1998, the Prime Minister's Office held the Forum on Violence Against Women. The Forum focused on increasing the awareness of society toward the elimination of all forms of violence against women, and enhancing opportunities toward collaboration with related organizations, associations, etc. Lectures were made by experts and persons who have an involvement in addressing issues of violence against women and views were exchanged between participants in symposiums and in the Forum venue itself. Moreover, the Interim Report of the Committee on Violence Against Women of the Council of Gender Equality was announced at the Forum. The Committee is continuing to make examinations and deliberations in reference to information gathered from related organizations and associations, experts, etc.
  2. Respecting the human rights of women in the media
    • The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications hosted the Study Group for Research on Young People and Broadcasting in order to review basic attitudes toward youth and methods for broadcasting and the direction of measures. In its report of December 1998, the Ministry made proposals on the enhancement of television programs for young people, consideration of broadcast times, the use of violence chips, etc. Aiming at the swift realization of the proposals, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the Japan Broadcasting Association (NHK) and the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan jointly hosted the Experts Meeting on Young People and Broadcasting, and are scheduled to compile specific introductory measures in June 1999.
    • The National Police Agency has held the Research Committee on Harmful Environments for Young People Provided through Networks since March 1997, and compiled a report on these Committees in October 1998. The report contains proposals for comprehensive measures against the provision of information harmful to young people over computer networks.
  3. Supporting life-long health for women
    • Since women's bodies are naturally designed for the purpose of pregnancy and giving birth, their life cycles, e.g., puberty and menopause, mean that they are faced with different health issues to men. The Ministry of Health and Welfare works to increase awareness toward the importance of these issues throughout society, including men, and to enhance active approaches made toward them.
    • In June 1998, the Administrative Vice-Minister of Education, Science, Sports and Culture distributed notification to prefectural boards of education to further improve instruction, for example, by holding drug abuse prevention classes in all lower and upper secondary schools. Moreover, the Ministry works to advance drug abuse prevention education through measures. For example, the Ministry produces and distributes pamphlets for lower and upper secondary school students and implements training, etc., for teachers in charge of drug abuse prevention education
  4. Promoting gender equality and making possible a diversity of choices through improved education and learning
    • Since 1996, the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture has been holding "Gender Equality Seminars for Youth," focusing on institutions of higher education, e.g., universities, and life-long learning facilities. In the Seminar, men and women take on a variety of roles, and learn how to cultivate the ability to make individual choices and to develop their own lives.
    • The National Women's Education Centre has been holding gender equality education seminars for teachers since FY1997 as part of life-long learning for teachers.

Chapter 4 Contributing to the Equality, Development and Peace of the Global Community

  • The 42nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 1998 decided to hold the high-level plenary review as a special session of the UN General Assembly in June 2000, to appraise and assess the progress made in the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women and the Beijing Platform for Action five years after its adoption and to consider further actions and initiatives. In response to this, to facilitate exchange of information and views and to cooperate in preparation for the special session of the General Assembly, a decision to hold the "National Committee of Japan for Women 2000" was made by the President of the Headquarters for the Promotion of Gender Equality, and its first meeting was held for the first time in January 1999.

Chapter 5 Promotion of the National Plan of Action

  1. Active development of measures and regular follow-up
    • The Headquarters for the Promotion of Gender Equality has been comprehensively promoting measures based on the National Plan of Action for Promotion of a Gender Equal Society by the Year 2000 (adopted in December 1996).
  2. Collecting, compiling and releasing survey results and information
    • The Office for Gender Equality within the Prime Minister's Office has established a Gender Information Site on the Internet, from which information in Japanese is widely disseminated both within Japan and abroad on Japan's efforts to realize a gender-equal society, as well as related data, etc.
  3. Strengthening the structures and functions of national machineries
    • The Basic Law on Administrative Reform of the Central Government, passed in June 1998, stipulates the establishment of the Conference for Gender Equality within the Prime Minister's Office. The head of the Headquarters for the Promotion of Administrative Reform of the Central Government established within the Cabinet under the same law and headed by the Prime Minister, with all ministers serving as its members decided on reduction of the number of secretariats and bureaus, which has also been approved by the Headquarters. As a part of this decision, a Bureau for Gender Equality (provisional name) will be established within the Prime Minister's Office.
    • The Government of Japan, having considered a basic bill on a gender-equal society in response to the report of the Council for Gender Equality, submitted it to the 145th Session of the Diet on 26 February 1999.
  4. Strengthening liaison among national and local governments and NGOs, and enhancing nationwide efforts
    • In September 1996, the Prime Minister's Office established the Liaison Conference for the Promotion of Gender Equality (Egalite Network) to promote wide-ranging liaison among various fields and levels of society toward advancing nationwide efforts to create a gender-equal society. Two plenary meetings were held in FY1998, as well as two planning committee meetings. Participants not only exchanged views and information, but also produced reference materials on the objectives of the participating associations, the organization, overviews of projects and the present state of activities related to gender equality.