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It was a move created to show that Japan’s ruling party was committed to gender equality following the sexism scandal that forced one of its former prime ministers, Yoshiro Mori, to resign as head of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee.

It was time to give female members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) more importance in key meetings, party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai said this week, days after Mori was ousted after his claim that meetings followed by conversational women tended to crawl.

But Nikais tried to address the gender gap in his party when it became clear that small groups of women attending meetings were expected to be seen but would not be heard.

The LDP, which has ruled Japan almost unchallenged since 1955, had proposed allowing groups of about five women to attend its 12-member board, 10 of whom are men, on condition that they stay silent observers.

The proposal was ridiculed on social media and by opposition MPs. Male chauvinism and discrimination against women is always part of the LDP, wrote a Twitter user.

Nikai, a powerful factional leader who backed Yoshihide Suga to become prime minister last fall, defended the proposal, under which female observers would be allowed to send their views to the board secretariat instead of speaking. Importers’s important to fully understand what kind of discussions are taking place, 82-year-old Nikai told reporters. Taking a look this is what it has to do with.

Yoshiro Mori addressing a predominantly male audience at the headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party in Tokyo
Yoshiro Mori addressing a predominantly male audience at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo. He has since resigned as head of the Olympic organizing committee. Photos: Kazuhiro Nogi / EPA

Nikai reportedly made the proposal a day after Tomomi Inada, a former defense minister campaigning to raise the status of MPs, suggested that women be allowed to attend important party meetings. Last year, Inada called Japan a women-free democracy after Suga appointed only two women to his cabinet.

Women make up half of the Japanese population and 40% of the basic LDP membership, she said. If women do not have a place to discuss the policies they want to pass, Japanese democracy cannot but be one-sided.

The gender problem of the Japanese is reflected in the composition of its lower house of parliament, where only 9.9% of MPs are women, well below the international average of 25.1%, according to Inter-parliamentary union, the global organization of national parliaments. Moreover, the Japanese global ranking for gender equality placed it 121st out of 153 countries in it World Economic Forum Report 2020, 11 countries lower than a year ago and the largest gap between advanced economies.

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