1. Problems Concerning the Media in Japan
2. Comments on the Government Policy
3. The Examples of Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations
4. Priority Objectives for the Year 2005
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(1) The poor understanding of the importance of the media's role in promoting gender equality
The Government and media organizations have insufficient understanding of the importance of the media's role in realizing a gender equal society. The fundamental problems are as follows: a. The Government and media organizations have little understanding of how women are at a disadvantage in exercising their rights to access information, express their views, and disseminate information. b. Mass media organizations have shown no intention of playing an active role in ameliorating situations discriminatory to women and the Government does not expect mass media organizations to play such a role.
The Government and mass media organizations should recognize that information transmitted by the media in Japan travels across the national border and has a global influence.
(2) The gender bias in the contents of mass media
Mass media organizations have not developed a mechanism to self-examine the contents of the information they provide in light of its contribution to the realization of a gender equal society. They have not paid adequate attention to the influence of images and information transmitted by the media sectors including broadcasting, newspapers, publishing, and advertising. This is due to their inability to see gender discrimination as a problem.
First of all, mass media do not transmit information that is relevant to women. The media coverage on the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action was extremely limited. The press did not report fully on the Japanese Government's Plan for Gender Equality 2000. The contents or the deliberative process of the Basic Law on Gender Equality, which was passed in 1999, has received very little media attention. Although women's non-government organizations have been trying to exchange necessary information by their own media and electronic mails, only a limited number of people come into contact with such media. The limited number of mass media reports on such issues is likely to create the impression that these issues are irrelevant to society in general.
Secondly, there is the problem of representation by mass media that aggravates gender discrimination. Commercialism of the media creates a flood of pornography. Television programs and weekly magazines are flooded with representations that condone violence against women and reinforce sexist stereotypes. Such representations are also disseminated indiscriminately, for instance, in television columns and advertisements in the newspapers or poster ads in the public transportation system. It is not just the very explicit sexual representations that are gender discriminatory. Stereotypical portrayals of women and men in television commercials are located within the same continuum as such sexual representations. Gender discrimination is often expressed in conjunction with other types of discrimination such as discrimination against ethnic minorities, the handicapped, the aged, and sexual minorities, and is likely to be overlooked.
(3) The awareness of the people working in mass media
Mass media organizations have not fully implemented educational programs for their personnel to nurture a precise awareness of the problems of gender discrimination. The television stations and newspapers have maintained an indifferent attitude toward protests from non-government organizations. It seems that the industry as a whole lacks any concern toward this issue. Such insensibility towards gender issues is a fundamental problem for the Japanese media.
(4) Women's accessibility to the media
Mass media organizations in Japan are very much gender-discriminatory work places. Women's participation in mass media organizations remains at the lowest level in the world. For instance, the proportion of women in news/production divisions in major broadcasting stations and newspapers is roughly 10 percent, and women occupy only 1 percent of the managerial positions. Even after the Beijing Conference these organizations have not implemented any active and effective measures to increase the number of female workers. Neither has the Government taken steps to promote such measures. Women are more likely to work as part-timers and freelancers under non-formalized, unstable employment conditions, or to work with subcontracting production companies. These women must put up with low wages, unstable employment and harsh labor conditions. Their unstable status has led to incidents of sexual harassment in media-related job sites.
Discriminatory employment practices are now prohibited by the amendment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. Non-government organizations are trying to watch over the hiring practice of mass media organizations to make sure that they observe the law. Women have been made to give up their jobs, due to the difficulty of balancing work and family responsibilities under the harsh labor conditions created for men with wives staying at home. Women have also been forced to leave or change their jobs due to sexual harassment and/or conventions based on ageism. We should not allow such practices to continue.
The access to new information technologies is also important. Obtaining the skills and opportunities to actively utilize such technologies will empower women in the public sphere. In particular, there is an urgent need for support to make use of such technologies to protect the human rights of women.
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(1) The Government's lack of volition toward active involvement in the realm of "Women and the Media"
The Government has added "Respect for the human rights of women in the media" to the priority objectives of the Plan for Gender Equality 2000. However, no budgetary measures have been taken to promote this objective since the adoption of the Plan. This clearly reflects the negativist attitude of the Government toward this issue. Government organizations, including the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, should make the awareness of gender issues a mainstream element of the formative process of their media policies.
(2) The absence of the perspective on women's freedom of expression
The media should not be allowed to infringe upon the human rights of women, under the pretext of the "media's" freedom of expression. As it has been listed as the first strategic objective in the Beijing Platform for Action, the most basic action needed in the realm of "Women and the Media" is the substantive extension of "women's" freedom of expression and their access to the media. But this perspective is totally absent in the Plan 2000 and in the Government's involvement after the adoption of the plan. The Government should take into account opinions of concerned people on the problems regarding the contents of the mass media and support the formation of regulatory mechanisms by citizens and media organizations.
(3) Policies focused on top-down regulations
Non-governmental organizations find it alarming that the Government is strengthening its control over citizens' personal information (for instance, the move toward the enactment of the Communication Interception Law, i.e., the "wiretapping law," and the partial amendment of the Residential Register Law). Although the Government asserts that it has taken measures to promote "respect for the human rights of women in the media," it has limited its scope to the "human rights of those who are being represented in the media" and has ignored the issue of women's rights to access the media. Therefore, what has been listed as "innovative policies, programs, projects, and best practices" in the Government's response to the "Questionnaire on Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action" are focused on the top-down regulatory policies on sexual/violent expressions in the media adopted by the Japanese Government, local governments and the media industries acting under government guidance. Besides, these regulatory policies are primarily aimed at protecting children and adolescents from excessive, explicit sexual/violent expressions and lack the perspective of the human rights of women and gender equality.
(4) The neglect of the problems of stereotypical images based on gender role division
The fact that media easily accessible to all, such as television, newspapers, magazines, comic books, etc., are flooded with sexual and violent expressions that infringe upon the human rights of women is itself a grave problem. But that is not the only problem of "Women and the Media." Mass media organizations do not fully recognize that the frequent use of sexist stereotypes is in itself a form of gender discrimination. Neither has the Government taken any measures to solve this problem.
(5) The Government's arrears in drawing up the guideline for promoting expressions free of gender biases
The Government is an important transmitter of information. If expressions free of gender-biases are used in official releases and publications of the Government it would have a significant impact on society, for such information would spread through the media. The Government should draw up guidelines for their own publications as soon as possible.
(6) The absence of a positive attitude toward encouraging the use of new information technologies
Women are willing to utilize new information technologies for communication. The Government should take measures, not only to regulate, but also to actively promote and support women's use of such technologies including the Internet as a means of communication.
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(1) The alternative plan for the Plan for Gender Equality 2000
Since the clause on "Respect for the human rights of women in the media" has fundamental shortcomings, as described above, non-governmental organizations have drawn up an alternative plan to indicate clearly that the solution of the problems of "Women and the Media" lies within the extension of women's access to the media and the enhancement of their media literacy. Media Literacy is the citizens' ability to critically analyze and evaluate the media in their social contexts. It also includes citizens' abilities to have access to the media and to express themselves, creating social communications in a variety of forms. As for this alternative plan, various non-governmental organizations have exchanged opinions and agreed on the general direction of reforms. The content of the alternative plan has been reflected in the plan for action in at least one local government.
(2) The increase in the production of information and the exchange of opinions by women
Even before the Beijing Conference, women had been actively involved in the dissemination of information through their own newspapers and magazines. In the past five years, women have come to utilize the new information technologies such as facsimile transmissions, videos, the Internet and have created a new flow of information that is different from the mainstream media. For instance, the facsimile transmission "JJ Net News" provides information on women-related policies, deliberated within the legislature and the administration, which do not usually appear in the mass media, and offers a place for the exchange of opinions among women. On the Internet, there are forums for people involved in the women's movement such as the "fem-net" and numerous web-sites have been built concerning specific issues, offering a space for the active exchange of opinions.
(3) Media watch, Media literacy
There is an increase in the number of new types of non-governmental organizations that keep watch over the media and act to protest against and give suggestions to media organizations in order to ameliorate gender discrimination in the media. Some of the non-governmental organizations working on specific women's issues have had some success by expressing objections and providing accurate information to the mass media. Public interest in media literacy has grown rapidly within the past five years. The notion of "media literacy" based on gender perspectives has come to be reflected in seminars and educational programs at women's centers, local governments, and labor unions.
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(1) The amelioration of gender discrimination in mass media organizations
Mass media sectors should recognize the seriousness of the fact that the proportion of women in the mainstream media remains the lowest in the world. They should adopt policies to increase women's participation within the industry and draw up a concrete plan, including an actual timetable to remedy the situation.
Mass media organizations, including newspaper companies, television stations & program production companies, publishing companies and advertisement firms, must re-examine the rules and conventions that obstruct the increase of women's participation and recognize the impediments, including sexual harassment, that force female members to resign early and take countermeasures to remove such obstacles.
Even if the Equal Employment Opportunity Law creates gender balance among new recruits it will take too long to ameliorate the gender imbalance of the entire organization. Mass media organizations should aim to increase the proportion of women staff members to 30% by the year 2005. Thus, the organizations should first grasp the actual proportion of women in different types of jobs, and draw up a concrete schedule, with actual target figures, in order to attain this goal.
Each mass media organization and each umbrella organization for the mass media sectors must train people working in mass media, regardless of the types of their jobs, employment patterns, positions, and gender, on the issue of gender discrimination. The training program should systematically explain the meaning of gender, the problem of gender discrimination, preventive measures against sexual harassment and change the consciousness of those involved in media production.
Mass media organizations are recommended to assign a full-time staff and/or create a special office to put into action what has been described above.
The Government should monitor the progress made by mass media organizations regarding the above-mentioned measures.
(2) The establishment of a system for monitoring and regulating the mass media
In order to solve the problems regarding the contents of mass media, mass media industries including the advertising sector should establish, together with citizens, a system of self-regulation. For example, we advocate the establishment of a media ombud able to constantly monitor, evaluate and give advice to mass media from the perspective of gender equality, or perhaps add some viewpoints on gender equality and human rights of women to the objectives of existing third-party advisory organizations. We must be careful to maintain the balance between women and men within the organization.
(3) Media education from the perspective of gender equality
Citizens should take the initiative to enhance women's media literacy and promote media education to expand their ability to disseminate information. It is indispensable for the realization of a gender equal, democratic society that citizens enhance such abilities.
(4) The Role of the national and local governments
In order to attain the goal described above, the Japanese Government and local governments should provide financial support and/or equipment and facilities to citizens and non-governmental organizations engaged in research on the actual problems in the media or running the training programs for enhancing media literacy. They should also promote women's participation in mass media organizations, as well as in the policy making process regarding the media.
The national and local machineries for the advancement of women should build a system for the exchange of opinions between citizens/non-governmental organizations and mass media. They should also re-examine information issued by the national and local governments from the perspective of gender equality and create a guideline for gender equal expressions reflecting the voices of citizens and experts.
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