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 of national councils, etc., by the end of FY2000 at the latest. As of the end of March 1998, this figure was 17.7%.

  2. Reviewing social systems and practices and reforming awareness from the perspective of gender equality

    In June 1998, the Economic Planning Agency released its estimated monetary evaluations of unpaid work such as housework.

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

  1. Securing equal opportunity and equal treatment in employment, etc.

    At the 140th regular Diet session, the Ministry of Labour submitted a bill for the development of Ministry of Labour-related laws to ensure equal opportunity and treatment, etc., of men and women in employment. This included strengthening the Equal Employment Opportunity Law and Other Measures (the Equal Employment Opportunity Law), to dismantle the restrictions on women's overtime, work on days off and late-night work for women workers and the development of substantial measures for protecting motherhood. The bill was passed on 11 June 1997, and went partially into effect as of 1 April 1998.

    To assist companies in taking concrete measures for positive action, since FY1997 the Ministry of Labour has been holding "Top Seminars," which target corporate leaders, as well as business-specific employer conferences for corporate personnel managers, etc.

    To popularize and promote telework, the Ministry of Labour has been working with companies to implement and examine model projects putting telework into practice. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has also set up a telework center for postal workers, implementing telework from the home.

  2. Building partnerships in agriculture, forestry and fishing villages

    Since FY1997, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has been working toward the realization of a society where women in agricultural villages can participate actively together with men in the development of agriculture and agricultural villages. To achieve this, the Ministry has been implementing projects for the promotion of partnerships in agriculture and agricultural villages, including educating families and local communities in this regard, developing indexes and objectives for gender ratios of board members in agricultural cooperatives, etc., and implementing surveys to ascertain the extent to which these ratios have been met.

  3. Supporting men and women in harmonizing their working lives with home and community lives

    The Ministry of Health submitted to the 140th Diet session a bill for amendment of the Child Welfare Law, including (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. This bill was passed in June 1997.

    The Ministry of Education is supporting the development of home education projects at prefectural and local levels through, for example, a project designed to support and promote home education and child-rearing. Measures under this project include the expansion of learning opportunities for home education, and support for the creation of local networks through, for example, the establishment of "child-rearing plazas" at kindergartens and community centers where parents can get together to discuss child-rearing.

    The Ministry of Labour is promoting the further establishment of child care leave systems and the early introduction of the family care leave system which will become compulsory from 1 April 1999. The Ministry is also promoting projects which support workers in harmonizing their working lives with home lives.

    In FY1997, the Economic Planning Agency implemented surveys on individual awareness of grassroots activities and the actual state of these activities, etc., and conducted economic analyses of the activities of private-sector non-profit organizations, etc., in order to create a multi-faceted picture of volunteer and other grassroots activities.

  4. Developing the conditions to allow senior citizens to live with peace of mind

    Since FY1995, 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.

    The Ministry of Health and Welfare submitted to the 139th Diet session a nursing care insurance bill and related bills providing comprehensive and integrated care services for the elderly across the spectrum of health, medical care and welfare. These bills were passed in December 1997.

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

  1. Eliminating all forms of violence against women

    The police promote structuring responses to crime victims during investigations through the creation of an environment in which women victims of sexual crimes find it easier to report such crimes by expanding the mechanism whereby interviews are conducted by women police officers, etc., as well as encouraging interviewing techniques which consider the emotional state of crime victims. The police also conduct public relations and advertising activities through various media in order to encourage victims to file criminal reports and to raise social awareness of sexual crimes.

    The police are making maximum use of existing laws to crack down on prostitution involving young girls, as this is an act which severely impedes their healthy development. In the same context, the police are also working with related institutions to increase public awareness toward the protection of children's rights, with the goal of creating a society which does not permit child prostitution.

    The amended Equal Employment Opportunity Law (which will enter into effect on 1 April 1999) makes it obligatory for employers to exercise care in management of employees to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

    The Council for Gender Equality has established a committee on violence against women, which is surveying and discussing basic policies to ensure a proper response to the changing situation brought about by people's awareness and internationalization in regard to prostitution and other forms of violence against women which impede the achievement of a gender-equal society.

  2. Respecting the human rights of women in the media

    Responding to the report produced by the Round Table Conference on Audiences and Broadcasting in the Multi-Channel Era (held to explore the sound development of broadcasting toward the 21st century), etc., the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications had the Broadcasting Law amended in May 1997 and put into force in October the same year to further stimulate the program deliberation bodies which each broadcaster is obligated to establish, as well as to make the content of broadcast programs more appropriate.

    To ensure the healthy development of young people, the Youth Affairs Administration within the Prime Minister's Office is seeking voluntary regulation on the part of those involved with books, videos and the Internet, etc., as well as working to ensure effective use of the system for designating harmful written materials under the Youth Protection Ordinances and to educate the public toward development of a morally healthier community environment.

    The Law Regulating Adult Entertainment Businesses was amended to include new articles such as obligatory notification to the Public Safety Commission of businesses transmitting pornographic images to clients via the Internet, etc., and prohibition of sales to persons under 18 years old.

  3. Supporting life-long health for women

    The Ministry of Education is encouraging municipal governments to establish classes and lectures, etc., designed to meet specific objectives and for specific groups. For example, in home education classes for parents with children, parents learn about sex and sex education in the home, while lectures for newly-wed couples and couples expecting their first child discuss pregnancy and childbirth issues, including reproductive health and rights.

    The Ministry of Health is providing health education at public health centers, etc., targeting specific stages in women's lives. Mechanisms are also being developed to allow women to consult more freely on women's health issues, such as contraception, pregnancy, infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, women's diseases and menopausal disorders.

  4. Promoting gender equality and making possible a diversity of choices through improved education and learning

    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 and with the aim of improving instruction on gender equality in school education. Moreover, November 1997 saw publication of the Handbook on Women's Studies Education and Learning: Toward a Gender-Free Society as the result of surveys and research on the content and methods involved in women's studies in social education.

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

Based on the results of and follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women, Japan has been engaged in the following kinds of efforts: (a) cooperating actively in the activities of the various United Nations institutions; (b) advancing support of women in developing countries; (c) promoting women's contributions to peace; and (d) advancing international exchange, working closely with domestic and foreign NGOs in the above. The thrust of these efforts has been to achieve the goals of equality, development and peace in the global community toward improving the status of women.

In July 1997, the Headquarters for the Promotion of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education compiled and announced a national action plan for the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education.

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 of Gender Equality within the Prime Minister's Office has established a Gender Information Site on the Internet, from which information in Japanese and English 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 organizations

    The Council for Gender Equality, newly established on the basis of the Law Concerning the Establishment of the Council for Gender Equality (passed on 19 March 1997 and put into force on 1 April 1997), has been requested by the Prime Minister to examine (a) basic issues related to policies for promotion of the achievement of a gender-equal society, as well as (b) basic policies to ensure a proper response to the changing situation brought about by people's awareness and internationalization in regard to prostitution and other forms of violence against women which impede the achievement of a gender-equal society. The Council has since been conducting surveys and deliberating on these issues. The Subcommittee for the Consideration of Basic Laws was also established under the auspices of the Committee on Basic Issues on 16 February 1998, and is now considering basic laws concerning a gender-equal society.

    In September 1997, the Prime Minister's Office invited senior officials of national organizations for the advancement of women in nine Asian countries to Japan to discuss women's issues in East Asian countries. Participants engaged in an exchange of views on their respective national organizations for the advancement of women, etc.

  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 FY1997, as well as three planning committee meetings. Participants not only exchanged views and information, but also created and widely distributed a poster using the design and catchphrase which won the top award (the Prime Minister's Award) in a contest for designs, photographs and catchphrases on a gender-equal society. Six meetings for exchanges of information and views among people from a wide range of fields and levels were also held between April 1997 and April 1998.