1. Innovative policies, programmes, projects and the best practices
2. Obstacles faced and overcoming them
3. Future perspectives
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(1) Developing and strengthening the structure for the comprehensive implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action
a) Strengthening the organization and function of national machinery
The Prime Minister's Committee on Gender Equality will be established in 2001 as Japan's national machinery for the advancement of women. As part of the ongoing Reform of Central Ministries, it will have various mandates such as the monitoring and comprehensive coordination of other Ministries' gender policies. However, the following issues have not been clarified: the enforcement of the mandates, institutional guarantees, detailed terms of reference of the Gender Equality Bureau, the number of staff members and the budget of the Bureau.
b) Establishment of a new council to promote the achievement of a gender equal society
Although legislation for the establishment of the Council of Gender Equality should be welcomed, there is only NGO representative among 25 Council members. More NGO representatives should be included in the Council to reflect grass roots women's opinions on gender equality polices.
c) The Liaison Conference for the Promotion of Gender Equality
NGOs' comments on the Liaison Conference for the Promotion of Gender Equality are as follows: the membership of the Liaison Conference for the Promotion of Gender Equality is limited. Those members are NGO representatives who have worked positively with the government. Discussions organized by the Conference have been open to certain NGOs only and have not been made public knowledge.
The Conference should be re-organized to incorporate the diverse opinions of various NGOs into the Government's policies on gender equality. The Conference should also become an opportunity for NGOs to monitor and evaluate the Government's policies and measurements.
(2) Preparations for the formulation of a basic law designed to promote a gender-equal society
The adoption and enforcement of the Basic Law Designed to Promote a Gender Equal Society should be highly scrutinized, especially considering the increase in right wing activity in the current political situation. Some NGOs' comments on the law include: The law condones economic strategies which will force women and men into long hours and hard labour, resulting in lower salaries which continue discrimination against women. The law prevents the full implementation of the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. a The phrase "to cope with the changes in socio-economic situation" should be deleted. b. The law should forbid all discrimination against women by stating the various types of discrimination against women. c. Independent organizations to cope with complaints and provide support to the victims of gender discrimination should be established.
Other comments on the law include:
a. The law should specify women's human rights rather than men and women's human rights.
b. The law is neither concrete nor providing penalties.
c. The law does not mention about the discrimination against women at work places.
d. The law does not mention the necessity of developing gender training materials to provide gender training in school education, at on-the- job training and in adult education.
Positive action is one of the special features of the law. The law only recommends that the national and local governments should take such action, but doesn't indicate any concrete action. The law does not provide names of organizations to cope with complaints about gender discrimination. When the law was deliberated at the House of Councillors, the Chief Cabinet Secretary stated that the government would like to utilize existing organizations such as the Human Rights Protection Committee under the Ministry of Justice. However, there are many complaints about the members of the Committee since they do not understand either human rights or women's issues. The UN Commission of Human Rights has already recommended that the Japanese government establishes an independent human rights committee.
(3) Strengthening cooperation between national and local governments
The nature of cooperation between national and local governments is not clear. Existing activities include organizing meetings at local levels, providing information through publications and the Internet but this is only information dissemination and not real cooperation. Assistance provided by the national machinery to local governments is vague.
(4) Strengthening cooperation with NGOs
It should be noted that many comments and opinions from NGOs were collected for drafting the basic law, while most of the Japanese bureaucracies have ignored or disregarded NGOs. However, daily activities to incorporate NGOs' opinions and comments into the government policies do not exist and are not planned.
Very few NGO representatives have been included in the government delegates to international conferences. No NGO representatives were part of the Japanese delegation to the UN Commission of Status of Women(CSW), while the Philippines and many western countries include NGOs in their delegates to the CSW.
The national machinery should promote cooperation with NGOs. After 1995, many organizations have been established at national and local levels to empower women. Women's networks in cooperation with female representatives have been established for lobbying the national and local governments. However, the development of a database on NGO could be dangerous for NGOs since the database could be used to control and monitor NGO activities. Therefore, such a database should be created by a NGO network, but not by the government.
(5) The Introduction of time use studies which are gender sensitive for paid and unpaid works
The General Coordination Agency established a group to research questions on unpaid work and to undertake international comparison with time use studies conducted by the members of European Unions and other countries. The establishment of the research group should be positively evaluated since the group includes female members for gender perspective and other government organizations, such as the Economic Planning Agency and the Office for Gender Equality, also participate in the research group's discussions.
Regarding NGOs' activities on this topic, the Kanagawa Network Movement conducted time use studies of cooperative members and their husbands and analysed community volunteer activities among unpaid work.
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(1) Insufficient studies on the impact on and evaluation of gender perspectives
Studies on the impact on and evaluation of gender perspectives was not undertaken by the Government until this fiscal year. A limiting mandate of the national machinery may forbid the machinery undertaking of such studies. We look forward to the results of the study. The results should lead to the incorporation of procedures and guidelines into the policies and measures. Furthermore, the development of such procedures/guidelines should also be developed for local governments.
(2) Investigation of a gender-neutral social system for the individual's choice of life style
The Pension scheme should be based on individuals not couples/families. If implementing this would take time, the pension system should be improved to increase the amount of minimum pension since the majority of people who receive the minimum pension are women. Furthermore, the tax scheme based on the family unit is unfair for unmarried people. The government should renovate the tax scheme and pension scheme so that people are free to choose their life style.
Regarding the revision of the civil law which includes the right to choose one or two family names upon marriage, the government shifted its responsibility to public opinion, of which only half support the revision. The family registration system becomes another civilian problem. Gender identity disorder has brought a suit to change the sex stated at the family registration. Therefore, the Government should seriously tackle a civil law revision.
Other obstacles and problems in our legal system, in particular the civil code, include discrimination against children born out of wedlock, the different minimum marriage age for men and women, and the period forbidding remarriage for women. The Government's revision of the civil law has not been proposed to the Diet due to the strong opposition from the ruling party.
(3) Insufficient strengthening and expansion of national machinery
Although the national machinery will be drastically improved in 2001, the concrete results of the improvements so far have not been publicized. The Government should provide detailed information on the ombusperson system, strengthening national and local women's centers, developing gender training for national and local government officers, establishing and fully equipping a system to plan, collect and analyse gender sensitive statistics. Furthermore, it is not possible for the Committee on Gender Equality and Office/Bureau for Gender Equality to promote gender mainstreaming only by themselves. A gender focal system promoting gender main streaming should be prominently established in each Ministry. The chairperson of the gender focal system should be at the highest level of the Ministry, such as vice minister or director general of the respective Ministries.
There is no national government office to effectively deal with the victims of gender based violence, such as domestic violence. When victims consulted human rights protection officers and police officers, they refused to deal with the victims, stating that they were not responsible for domestic violence. It is urgent that the Government formulates and adopts a law eliminating gender based violence against women, in particular domestic violence, so that the Government can establish offices preventing domestic violence, providing counseling services, establishing shelters for emergency rescue and deal with other matters relating to domestic violence.
(4) Delay in local governments' gender equality policies
Obstacles and some proposed solutions to these obstacles are as follows:
a. In order to promote gender mainstreaming, each local Government should establish a cross governmental organization of which the chairperson is in a position of government authority. Representatives of NGOs should be included as members of the organization.
b. In comparison with prefectures, gender equality policies in cities, towns and villages have been far behind. Most gender equality officers are located at the board of education which has no mandate to coordinate other governmental offices. Furthermore, many town and village governments have established gender equality offices without full time officers to deal with the issue. Due to the recent downsizing exercise of the government, some local autonomies have started the integration of gender equality offices into other offices. It is necessary to establish separate gender equality offices under heads of governments. The office with full time experienced officers should be mandated to plan and coordinate with other local government offices and work with NGOs in equal partnership.
c. Only 13% of cities, towns and village have formulated a plan of action to promote gender equality. Cooperation with prefectures and small towns and villages is necessary to increase the number of towns and villages formulating a plan of action. Many plans of action which have already been formulated do not have a time frame or process to monitor implementation. Monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the plan of action should be the duties of the all offices of the respective governments. NGO representatives should participate in formulation and evaluation of the implementation of the plan of action.
d. At the prefectural level, women's centres have been established for the consciousness raising of men and women by providing training and discussion opportunities. Such women's centres should also be established in cities, towns and villages.
e. Formulation and adoption of local ordinance for gender equality is necessary. NGOs should be involved in the process of the formulation of the ordinance. The ordinance should include effective rules in very conservative towns and villages, such as dual-man and woman- representative system of all public organizations. The ordinance should allow the government to establish a new organization to deal with complaints regarding gender discrimination and domestic violence.
f. One of the serious obstacles to create a gender equality society is the ignorance of gender issues among local government officers and members of local assemblies. Local government officers have to obey decisions made at assemblies. Therefore, consciousness raising of those officers and assembly members by gender training is important. Consciousness of the civil society itself which elects those assembly members should also be raised.
g. Local NGOs' lack of policy proposal capacity, problem solving ability, and energy is another obstacle for creating a gender equality society. NGOs should be empowered in order to participate in the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of a plan of action for the local autonomies. The local governments could provide assistance to the NGOs for their empowerment.
h. Hundreds of promoters of a gender equality society have been selected and trained in every prefecture. The system should be evaluated and monitored to find out whether those promoters work effectively.
(5) Lack of coordination to create a system to evaluate unpaid work
The Economic Planning Agency has publicized the results of its research on "Monetary evaluation of unpaid work", in 1997 and 1998. However, the Agency did not have any collaboration with the Office for Gender Equality for conducting the research and the results of the research did not reflect on the gender equality policies undertaken by the Office. There are no female members at the research group on satellite account for the elderly and child caring. The national machinery should establish an organization to evaluate and measure unpaid work. Time use studies which include gender sensitive questions regarding paid and unpaid work should be conducted periodically.
(6) Insufficient gender statistics
Producing complete gender statistics should be achieved by improving existing employment measures which underestimate women's unemployment and underemployment rates. Current unemployment statistics does not properly reflect the situation of women engaged in unpaid or part-time work, resulting in the underestimation of female unemployment and underemployment rates.
The Government of Japan has not reported the ratio of female income to male income which is 51% to ILO. As the result, UNDP has to use the international average, which is 75%, for the calculation of GEM(Gender Empowerment Measure)and GDI(Gender Development Index) of Japanese women. According to this calculation, Japanese women's GEM in 1998 was ranked 38th of in the world. However, if the real figure of female-male income ratio was used, the ranking could be law as 50th.
(7) Sectionalism among bureaucrats
Bureaucrats' sectionalism has prevented the Office for Gender Equality from being strengthened and improved. After the year 2001 when the national machinery will be upgraded and fully equipped, all Ministries to be gender mainstreamed. However, bureaucrats' sectionalism would be the hardest obstacles for gender mainstreaming. Such bureaucrats' sectionalism would be obstacles not only at national government, but also at local governments. Gender training for consciousness raising of bureaucrats and increasing the number and quality of femocrats is vital to overcome such sectionalism.
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Gender mainstreaming should be undertaken by the entire institutional mechanisms through strengthening cooperation and coordination among national machinery, all ministries and other government organizations, local governments and NGOs. Furthermore capacity building and improvement of national machinery, gender focal points of each Ministry, each local government, and each NGO is essential for the complete gender mainstreaming of Japan.
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