Japan Ruling Party Invites Women To Meetings - But Not Talk

Five female lawmakers have been invited to observe all-male political board meetings in Japan - as long as they don't having anything to say.

Video Transcript

[SPEAKING JAPANESE]

- This is what Japan's leadership looks like. The ruling party now wants more women at key meetings, as long as they don't talk. The Liberal Democratic Party proposed allowing five female lawmakers to join its nearly all-male board meetings, but only as observers.

TOSHIHIRO NIKAI: [SPEAKING JAPANESE]

- Toshihiro Nikai-- the party's 82-year-old Secretary General-- said it's important for women to quote, "understand what kind of political discussions are happening. So it's about letting them take a look."

Outrage ensued. Social media users decried the LDP proposal as tone deaf, in yet another example of deep rooted sexism in Japanese society. Japanese writer Mieko Kawakami tweeted that women are treated as second class citizens forever here in Japan. Others mocked the idea as a field trip for women.

The proposal comes in response to criticism that the LDP's board is dominated by men. On February 15th, Tomomi Inada-- who is Japan's second female defense minister-- wrote this letter to Nikai asking for more representation of female lawmakers.

TOMOMI INADA: [SPEAKING JAPANESE]

- Japan is a democracy without women. The perception that politics should be done by men still widely exists here in Japan, and the perception that good women are those who behave properly and don't push themselves forward also still exists.

YOSHIRO MORI: [SPEAKING JAPANESE]

- Just days before, Yoshiro Mori-- the 83-year-old Tokyo Olympics chief-- resigned after making sexist comments that women speak too much during meetings, resulting in international condemnation. Experts say Japanese politicians have gotten away with blatantly sexist comments in years past, but no longer.

KATHY MATSUI: 10, 20, 30 years ago, people would have just sort of brushed it off. Oh, that's another politician making a foot in the mouth comment and write it off. Whereas now-- particularly in this world of social media-- you can't get away with it that easily.

- The World Economic Forum calls Japan's gender gap-- by far-- the largest among all advanced economies, ranking it 144th place on its political empowerment index, between Qatar and Iran. Fewer than 10% of Japan's house of Representatives are women, just 46 out of 465 members.

TOMOMI INADA: [SPEAKING JAPANESE]

- Inada says Japan is still 20 years behind other developed countries in gender equality, and that more drastic change is needed.

I think we should introduce a quota system. We are proposing to make 30% of candidates for elections female. Without doing this, I don't think we will have change for even another 10 or 20 years.

- What about yourself? Do you have plans to try and become prime minister?

TOMOMI INADA: [SPEAKING JAPANESE]

- She says yes. And she'll keep challenging the status quo.