Part 1 An Overview Of Trends in Achieving Gender Equality and Women's Advancement
Part 2 Budgetary and institutional measures
Part 3 Implementing the High Priority Areas Identified by the Beijing Platform for Action
I. Innovative Policies, Programmes, Projects and the Best Practices As Well As Obstacles Faced and Overcoming Them
II. Commitment to Further Action and Initiatives
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1. Background to the formulation of the National Plan of Action
On the response of the government, we have to point out that the subjects of the questionnaire analysis were limited to women with Japanese nationality. Accordingly, it lacks consideration of the human rights of female foreigners living in Japan and immigrant female workers, as well as the viewpoints of minority women. This also applies to the Plan for Gender Equality 2000: National Plan of Action, and the Basic Law Designed to Promote a Gender-Equal Society passed in the current session of the Diet. Although these two stress, as their basic ideology, "international cooperation" contributing to a peaceful global community with "respect for human rights", today's Japan is advancing in the opposite direction. That is clearly indicated by the New Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation, the law regarding "Hinomaru" and "Kimigayo" as the national flag and the national anthem, the bill of the resident register with identification numbers which may violate human rights, and the so-called "wire-tapping law" which is part of law for counter-measures against organized crime.
As economic globalization proceeds, immigrant workers have been increasing and their human rights have been violated. Labor deregulation has led to more unstable employment and exploitation of female labor.
We must first recognize that the National Plan of Action and the Basic Law Designed to Promote a Gender-Equal Society were formulated in such circumstances. The National Plan of Action was certainly formulated under agreements with NGOs (by such means as holding a forum to gather views and opinions, and conducting a public nationwide opinion survey via facsimile) as provided by Paragraph 297 of the Beijing Platform for Action. The background and planning processes are appreciated.
As for the time limit to attain the goal of realizing the policies and the standards of monitoring through the processes provided by Paragraph 297, however, the Plan for Gender Equality 2000 does not stipulate either a concrete time limit or monitoring standards other than a target of 20%, the proportion of female members in the national council which should be achieved by 2000.
The Plan for Gender Equality 2000 stipulates (1) building social systems that promote gender equality as a goal with top priority. It is a great advance that the Plan recognizes that gender equality is realizable only through reforms of social systems, and expansion of women's participation in policy decision-making processes. On the other hand, the Plan does not contain any concrete measures, such as review of election systems and introduction of a quota system into the proportional representation system, for promoting participation in political fields, which is essential for participation in policy decision-making processes.
The time limit to attain the goal of realizing the measures and monitoring standards are not included in any of the four following basic targets, the one already mentioned and the three following: (2) achieving gender equality in the workplace, family, and community, (3) creating a society where the human rights of women are promoted and protected, and (4) contributing to 'equality, development and peace' in the global community.
For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Law amended in 1999 has established Positive Actions, but they stipulate only that the government may assists employers through consultation. The Law has no legal force against employers, and it is not applicable to public servants.
In addition, although the major amendments since 1995 are listed in the government report, no references are made to laws which may lead to encouragement of the exploitation of female labor, represented by the establishment of the Part-Time Workers Law and the Worker Dispatching Law, as well as the elimination of regulations to protect women, which prohibit work on rest days and late at night, by the Labor Standard Law. Further, the Plan for Gender Equality 2000 lacks the viewpoints of especially minority women; such as women in communities discriminated against(Buraku), Ainus, North and South Korean residents of Japan who are faced with double or triple discrimination.
2. Public opinion regarding the gender-equal society
In this section, the data obtained in the public opinion survey is laid out, but thre is no further analysis. For example, it says that "in the field of education a majority of both women and men answered that they consider each other equal." The perspective that school education reproduces gender discrimination should be added. Also, regarding awareness of gender roles, the government response states that "a large majority of people embrace the idea that it is desirable for women to prioritize family life over work or to keep the two equally compatible (45.0 percent for giving priority to family life, 41.2 percent for the compatibility of family life with work), and the majority still agree with the idea that 'Women should be responsible for housework and child-rearing, though it is good for them to have jobs.' (Some 86.4 percent agree with this), while the majority embrace the idea that it is desirable for men to prioritize work over family life (62.4 percent for priority to be given to work). Analyzing by gender, women surpassed men in answering that women should prioritize family life over work or keep them equally compatible, representing the fact that women themselves feel responsible for managing the family."
This statement might lead to the idea that the current situation is due to women's own awareness. More accurately, analysis should be provided in regard to how the economic system affects the fixing of gender roles, and what has impeded the reformation of gender roles and the gender division of labor.
Also, the government response should point out that the percentage of people who reject gender division of labor is increasing, despite the government's policy that emphasizes conventional family functions. The present situation where many women unwillingly give up their working life must be brought to people's attention.
3. Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
The Fourth World Conference on Women triggered the founding of many new NGOs which propose policies to the central and local governments in Japan. The Beijing JAC (the Beijing Japan Accountability Caucus) is a network of the policy-proposing NGOs, and is an outcome of the lobbying to the Japanese government at the Beijing Conference. Activities set by the caucuses for the 12 high-priority areas identified by the Beijing Platform for Action, and activities to establish a Basic Law Designed to Promote a Gender-Equal Society, and a law eliminating all forms of violence against women brought about the establishment of various networks all over Japan. The Women's Policies Information Network provides information by facsimile to women throughout the nation in regard to Diet sessions and diverse activities of women. The network helps to eradicate regional inequalities in access to information, and enhances the empowerment of women.
The NGOs which were established across the nation after the Beijing Conference, are network type organizations, in which individual members are expected to be the core of activities. The NGOs have expanded on the basis of equal partnership, which features not vertical but horizontal line of organization. However, activities are still limited to specific areas and groups, and have yet to attain a satisfactory number of participants.
Nevertheless, the movement to enlarge the political participation of women has spread nationwide during the last five years. For the 1999 unified local elections, back-up schools were established to support women's participation in policy-making, with the result that the number of local assembly women doubled.
The trend to establish network organizations was not limited to domestic operations. The East Asian Women's Forum was established prior to the Beijing Conference, and its first forum was convened in Japan in 1994. This organization comprises five countries and one area in East Asia, and holds a forum biennially. Its second forum was held in South Korea, and the third in Ulan Bator, Mongolia from August 23 to 26, 1998. The Ulan Bator forum drew approximately 400 participants, offering an occasion to enhance mutual understanding with people in Mongolia where socio-economic reformation had occurred. A broad range of subjects were discussed intensively. One of the topics concerned was an increase in women workers who are being forced to engage in labor of the peripheral areas, as the results of the economic globalization. The report of the third Conference was published in November, 1998, and the fourth forum will be held in Taiwan in 2000.
4. Strengthening the organization for creating a gender-equal society
A Conference for Gender Equality will be established by 2001 within the Prime Minister's Office, which will take charge of formulating plans on and comprehensively coordinating matters widely related to the services of various ministries, as a part of the administrative reforms of the central government. The mission of the Conference of Gender Equality includes examining the basic policies and comprehensive plans for realization of a gender-equal society, presenting important opinions so that the viewpoint of a gender-equal society is reflected in government measures, researching and monitoring the status of measures to be implemented for gender equality, and so on. The upgraded Bureau for Gender Equality will function as a secretariat. In consideration of the former bureau authorized only as a liaison function, this is epoch-making progress. The Conference of Gender Equality will consist of 10 members comprising relevant ministers and experts. Representatives of NGOs should be included in the latter group. Since only one representative will become a member of the Conference, it is not enough to promote a partnership with NGOs, so an effective system to realize this should be established. In addition, the Bureau should recruit staff with expertise who are specialized in gender equality in other fields.
At present, each ministry has a liaison for promoting gender equality, which has not functioned practically. Unless a focal point having the functions of comprehensive coordination and monitoring is established within each ministry, the main-streaming of gender equality in it cannot be expected to proceed smoothly.
Local public bodies should also strengthen their organizations, following the national government. They should institute an in-house promotion system with the commissioner serving as the chairperson, and then an independent bureau of gender equality within the department with the authority of comprehensive coordination of the commissioner's office, and should assign staff for the exclusive duty. For promoting further cooperation with NGOs, local public bodies should also establish functional councils and other systems.
As well as the establishment of these systems, education that promotes change and improvement in the consciousness of staff members is also necessary.
5. The proposal for a basic law designed to promote a gender-equal society
The enactment of the basic law designed to promote a gender-equal society is an achievement. The basic law stipulates that the nation and local public bodies must take "Positive Actions", and the former must take aid measures as well. The Chief Cabinet Secretary answered at the Diet session that the government would appoint existing machinery such as administrative counselors and ombudspersons to function as a remedial agency for the time being, to be reviewed at a later date. However, the machinery mentioned is insufficient as a remedial agency. As explained in the attendant resolution, a new remedial agency for human rights with an ombudsperson-like function independent of the administration should be instituted. Since the basic law does not specify any concrete contents or penalties, we are forced to wait for the enactment of individual laws. The basic law regards only the 'workplace, school, community, and family' as fields in which gender equality should be promoted. In contrast, the South Korean Basic Law on Women's Development regards assistance for participation in policy decision-making processes and politics, entering public offices, employment equality, gender-equal education (at the school, and in the family and community), and welfare as relevant fields, and refers to individual laws already enacted, such as the equal employment law. The Japanese government should formulate laws immediately to eliminate all forms of violence and abolish domestic violence against women.
The amended Equal Employment Opportunity Law stipulates only that employers should not neglect to take Positive Actions. On the other hand, the basic law designed to promote a gender-equal society specifies that the nation and local public bodies are obliged to take them. We expect that the effects will be felt in employment and the promotion of public servants.
The basic law collectively refers to companies, organizations and civilians as nationals. The viewpoints of minorities and foreigners living in Japan with no Japanese nationality are not found in the stipulations. When promoting gender equality, the government should attach importance to measures to be taken in order to promote respect for human rights and to eliminate discrimination, particularly against minority women; communities discriminated against (Buraku), Ainus, foreigners resident in Japan and women living alone, who are faced with difficult situations.
Several local governments have started the formulation of regulations for gender equality. To aim at making the basic law effective, the regulations are required to correspond to the circumstances in which women living in the region actually find themselves. NGOs, in cooperation with local members of the assembly, should promote activities for the formulation of these regulations.
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1. Budgetary measures
The government response states the FY1999 budget allocation related to Gender Equality amounts to 7.05 billion yen, covering 10% of the total national budget. However, a careful observation of its breakdown reveals that most of the budget does not actually apply to promotion of a gender-equal society.
As much as 5.86 billion yen, covering 83% of the budget related to gender equality, is designated for developing conditions to enable elderly people and others to live with peace of mind. We requested the Ministry of Health and Welfare for its breakdown and it was confirmed that 5.04 billion yen, or more than 70 % of the total budget for promoting gender equality, is disbursed for a national treasury obligatory share including the pension plan payment. Under the current pension system, a spouse of an employee is exempted from pension payment when the spouse's annual income does not exceed 1.3 million yen. The total number of these exempted spouses reaches 12 million and 99% of them are identified as housewives. Strong criticism is raised against this system since this mechanism strengthens the present institution that acknowledge full-time housewives. It is not appropriate to include the national treasury obligatory share in this budget for gender equality since it is retrogressive to gender equality.
This predicament can be attributed to insufficient awareness on the side of the Health and Welfare Ministry officials in charge, but the range of authority given to the Office for Gender Equality, which was not successful in coordinating the situation, should not be overlooked. Its current authority allows the Office only to liaise with related ministries, or to simply receive the data from the ministries and to compile a list. The Office for Gender Equality is not capable of formulating accountable data in such a manner that an organ of national machinery is expected to attain.
The allocation of the budget for promoting gender equality should be limited to: (1) projects for elimination of fixed notions of gender-based roles for the purpose of establishing a gender-equal society (including related projects for mainstreaming the gender-equal perspective), and (2) projects for improving the human rights of women. Guidelines should be created from this perspective, and presented to the related ministries so that the definition of the budget for promoting a gender-equal society can be rigidly defined.
Respect for the human rights of women through the media is not listed in the budget allocation. The media in Japan has a dishonorable reputation overseas due to the large number of programs and commercials that regard women as sex objects. Some measures that do not interfere with freedom of expression must be studied immediately, while refraining from overly controlling the media. These measures include (1) providing training sessions for broadcasters with the aim of enhancing awareness about programs that regards women as objects of violence or sex, and (2) supporting the NGOs in creating programs that respect the human rights of women.
The Japanese government announced the promotion of The WID Initiative (WID: Women in Development; Support for Women in Developing Countries)" at the Fourth World Conference on Women. However, the budget for the WID initiative actually decreased by 6.3% in FY99 over FY98. Since the ratio the WID initiative budget accounts for in the total ODA budget is very low, the WID budget should be significantly increased.
2. Follow-up mechanism of the Beijing Platform for Action
The Headquarters for the Promotion of Gender Equality comprises the Prime Minister (president) and all the cabinet ministers. It appears to have adopted the most powerful structure possible. In 1997, the Establishment Law of a Council for Gender Equality went into effect, and the overall organization appears to be appropriate. However, the authority of the Office for Gender Equality is very limited in that the Office is not capable of monitoring the implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action in each government ministry. In April 2001, a Conference for Gender Equality, which will have a monitoring function, will be established. Also, the Office for Gender Equality will be promoted to a Bureau for Gender Equality so that its authority will be considerably enlarged. It is hoped that these new organizational changes will greatly enhance gender equality.
The Chief Cabinet Secretary is appointed as Minister for Women's Affairs, but this is not stipulated in his/her description of responsibilities. A newly appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary, who was not very aware of women's issues, once declined the appointment and another cabinet minister was appointed as Minister for Women's Affairs. It is urgent to make the Chief Cabinet Secretary mandated to take charge of women's affairs by duly describing the duty in his/her description of responsibilities. Since the Chief Cabinet Secretary is an especially demanding position, it is necessary to establish the position of a vice-minister who specializes in women's affairs.
In the Council for Gender Equality, only one person representing NGOs is included, which makes the NGOs difficult to monitor and their policies diffucult to evaluate a neutral viewpoint. The Liaison Conference for the Promotion of Gender Equality is a network of NGOs, but the participating NGOs are limited. Nevertheless, the overall government cooperation with NGOs on the matter of women's affairs is better than that in other fields. Bureaucrats in Japan usually do not regard the NGOs as equal partners. In the light of the actions of other developed countries regarding women's affairs, however, the status in Japan is seen as less than effective for attaining bilateral communication. The national machinery only provides information to the NGOs, and the NGOs present a reply, but the degree to which the NGOs response is taken into consideration is not clear.
3. The Role of NGOs in Supporting the Beijing Platform for Action
The United Nations has guidelines to ensure the inclusion of NGO members among the government representatives at its world conferences in the '90s ('92 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, '93 World Conference on Human Rights, '94 United Nations Conference on Population and Development, '95 World Summit for Social Development, '95 World Conference for Women). This indicates that the UN has come to recognize that the NGOs' opinions are not negligible in order to solve global issues in regard to environment, development and human rights. The NGOs surpass national borders, and have become empowered in the 20 years since the World Conference of the International Women's Year (Mexico City). Reflecting this shift of the United Nations, the Japanese government has set up meetings to exchange views with the NGOs or solicited written opinions. It is appreciated that the government has taken these opinions into account upon formulation of various measures. However, the formulation process is conducted in a limited time under the government's initiative. It is not collaboration on an equal partnership basis. In consideration of the future development of the NGOs, it is important to increase their power to fully participate in the formulation of measures, and to obtain greater ability to observe and criticize the direction where the Japanese government, a government that advocates an emphasis on partnership, is heading. Furthermore, the NGOs should endeavor to establish a system that enables their wide participation in the policy-making process.
The government response describes the cooperation that took place at the Liaison Conference for the Promotion of Gender Equality. It also states that the National Committee of Japan for Women 2000 was organized to facilitate information exchange and cooperation with non-governmental organizations in preparation for the special session of the UN General Assembly, Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development, Peace for the 21st Century, in June 2000. However, areas of cooperation and the criteria for selecting the committee members have not been clearly designated.
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I. Innovative Policies, Programmes, Projects and the Best Practices As Well As Obstacles Faced and Overcoming Them
A. Women and poverty
B. Education and training of women
C. Women and health
D. Violence against women
E. Women and armed conflict
F. Women and the economy
G. Women in power and decision-making
H. Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
I. Human rights of women
J. Women and the media
K. Women and the environment
L. The girl-child
II. Commitment to Further Action and Initiatives
1. WID Initiative
One positive note, the proportion of the projects in social development sectors with a gender-sensitive perspective has been increasing in ODA, yet ODA as a whole, is still centered on large-scale projects related to the economic and social infrastructure and its maintenance. The basic problem of Japanese ODA as a whole is that the information and details of the ODA structure are not publicly available and cannot be shared by NGOs.
In the case of large-scale projects, consideration for women and gender equality has not been included at any stage. Recently a WID/Gender mainstreaming project started in JICA. This gender mainstreaming effort should be applied to all ODA projects.
In the case of the income generating projects in WID initiatives, for instance, even though measures to mitigate negative influences on women are being taken, the project's fundamental design has hardly changed, i.e. the infrastructure is the major part and the WID perspective is not regarded as an important factor in the projects. JICA and OECF should establish gender mainstreaming policies and guidelines and make a mid-term plan based on them. The budget and staff of the department of JICA associated with WID should be enriched.
An evaluation system of official development aid should be established so that gender equality and mainstreaming policies can be adopted into all technical and social cooperative projects.
A large part of the budget has been spent on the evaluation of development projects. Additionally, monitoring and evaluation indices from a gender equality perspective should be clearly established at all levels, from the planning stage to the impact evaluation stage, to clarify the allocation of human and financial resources.
Furthermore, gender mainstreaming surveys should be conducted by specialists in WID/gender area prior to the planning of a project. At this stage, a participatory approach should be applied. That is to ensure the participation of local people, including women from the stage of project planning.
Recently, third-party evaluation by NGOs has been launched at the evaluation stage by JICA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but it is still insufficient. Exactly what programs have been conducted with what budget under the name of ODA, including the WID initiative is unknown. Such information should be disclosed to the public in a comprehensive way. JICA has been dispatching an evaluation team for ODA programs, but has not disclosed the results to the public. Development related to NGOs has raised questions about the systems, as it is difficult to give honest criticism, because specialists associated with the said programs are included in the evaluation team.
A system has to be established to allocate the budget, particularly for projects to empower poor women to meet their basic human needs in developing countries. It is necessary for women to be able to participate in planning at the formulation stage of the projects. The WID initiative projects will probably remain peripheral unless they are accompanied by disclosure of the criteria and evaluation of the social impact, with gender-sensitive indices, and by a review of alternative proposals. On this point, third-party monitoring and evaluation is essential to change the structure of ODA, which has been centered on large-scale infrastructure projects.
The philosophy of sustainable development focused on poor women, supporting the independence of the local community, including the poor and the oppressed, has to be established as the basic model for Japanese ODA.
Project impact research on women at all stages of cooperative projects and especially after the implementation of projects, including gender balance of participants in the projects, is far from sufficient.
It is, however, appreciated that recently JICA has started WID/gender evaluation and is trying to establish a gender mainstreaming system in all ODA projects, starting with several regions such as South Asia. The Japanese Government has declared the WID initiative to be a good practice, but regrettably it has not exerted a great influence on the policies of ODA as a whole, especially policies related to large-scale infrastructure projects, which constitute a major proportion of ODA activities.
The number of WID specialists is growing, but is still not enough. The WID/gender specialists have rarely been dispatched as long-term specialists because of gender bias among staff and men at the decision-making level in JICA. The specialists have been used only on a short-term basis in unstable working conditions, and their fields have been limited to health and medical care.
A numerical target such as an increase in the proportion of female gender mainstreaming specialists to 30% by 2010 in all projects should be set, so that more women can be appointed to a decision-making role in official cooperation projects. In addition, the qualification requirements for specialists to be dispatched to the ODA project sites should include the following:
(1) Staff who have received training with a gender sensitive perspective
(2) Staffs who are sensitive to sexual harassment and abuse and violence against women.
Recently Japan took the positive measure of canceling the debts of developing countries. Meanwhile, since the econoomic crisis in Asia of 1997, Japanese Government has provided large-scale emergency assistance, such as 'Miyazawa Plan'. The so-called 'social safety net' was introduced. The participants who met at the Meeting of Senior Officials of National Machinery for the Advancement of Women in East and South-East Asian Countries held in June 1999, pointed that Japan should attach a guideline stating that they should allocate some funds for projects for promoting the advancement of women, as the World Bank and cooperative projects by other countries did.
As well as gender sensitivity, the accountability of the Miyazawa Fund should be clarified, when making loans to other countries. Furthermore, guidelines of multi-national corporations prohibiting discriminatory treatment, providing health protection for laborers, and protecting the right to work of female workers is urgently needed with the globalization of the economy.
Japan should actively promote such actions at international discussions. It is necessary for the Japanese government to take a stance to protect human rights and to stop excessive competition in the world of the free-market economy.
2. The Meeting of Senior Officials of National Machinery for the Advancement of Women in East and South-East Asian Countries
Since a Meeting of Officials of National Machinery for the Advancement of Women had never been held in East Asia, while it has been held regularly in regions such as South-East Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific, this meeting launched in 1996 has a significant meaning. However, South-East Asian countries have also participated in the previous meetings. At the meetings, the members have only had discussions and have never adopted any of the conclusions, declarations or recommendations agreed upon.
From now on, at least East Asian countries such as Mongolia, China, and South Korea should have deliberations on the follow-up mechanisms of the Beijing Platform for Action and adopt an agreement or a target for efforts among the countries concerned. Annual evaluations of their efforts in relation to the target will enable the promotion of women's advancement to be realised.
3. Examination of a new basic plan for promoting the creation of a gender-equal society
Based on the previously mentioned Basic Law Designed to Promote a Gender-equal Society passed during the current session of the Diet, the Japanese government will formulate a basic plan. This plan will become the basic framework for the abolition of discrimination against women, and it is a great advance that the Basic Law has been enacted as a legal fremework. In the Basic Law, however, responsibilities of companies are included in those of the public, and specific stipulations for the abolition of discrimination in the workplace, where women are faced with the most discrimination, are not included. In addition, the Basic Law has problems: referring only to equal employment opportunities and not to equality in the results, not stipulating the prohibition of indirect discrimination, and lacking the guarantee of a new grievance machinery.
How NGOs obtain and disclose the facts to work for the enactment of the Basic Plan and individual laws is a matter of ongoing concern.
4. Japan's vision for equality and the advancement of women in the new millennium
The Japanese government has repeatedly announced that a gender-equal society is one in which both women and men are given equal opportunities to participate voluntarily in activities in all fields as equal partners and can enjoy political, economic, social and cultural benefits, while also having equal responsibility. However, this statement is ambiguous on the point that, in reality, recognizing and overcoming inequalities in the power relationship between women and men must be the key to creating an equal, fair and peaceful society. As we approach the 21st century, the Japanese government should clarify its vision that it is essential to abolish sexual discrimination in order to create new values and cultures which replace the conventional sense of values that affirm violence as a means to achieve an object, such as by fighting with and conquering opponents, which has been a main theme in the male-dominated society of the 20th century.
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