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2023 Rewind: Japan’s worst year in gender equality yet; LGBTQ awareness may be improving

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Japan ranked 125th among 146 countries in the 2023 Global Gender Gap report, the country’s worst result on record. The country’s struggle to shatter the glass ceiling was reflected in the unified local elections in the spring, as many female candidates faced sexual harassment. Meanwhile, social awareness about sexual minorities seems to be advancing, with the government enacting a law to promote understanding of LGBTQ+ people, and local governments moving to abolish gender-specific school uniforms. Below is a selection of articles highlighting gender-related topics in 2023.

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Japan’s gender inequality reflected by attacks on women who speak up on social media

A woman, right, who attended a public lecture in Tokyo, holds a press conference before mailing an online petition in this photo provided by a party that initiated the petition in response to a misogynistic remark made during the lecture.

OSAKA — With the rise of social media, anyone can speak out easily and make an impact on society today. However, the downside of expressing views on the internet is the overwhelming number of posts from attackers, which have been seen in cases where women take a stand on gender issues. Full story

Many female election candidates face sexual harassment, verbal abuse in Japan: survey

(Getty Images)

TOKYO — Many female candidates, including sexual minorities, who ran in this past spring’s nationwide unified local elections faced harassment while campaigning, a survey by a group of young people working for gender equality in politics has found. Full story

How do college enrollment rates differ by gender and region in Japan?

(Getty Images)

TOKYO — Is there a “disparity” in people’s higher education rates in Japan depending on their gender or the prefecture they live in? Regarding college enrollment rates for girls, there is more than a two-fold gap between Tokyo and Akita Prefecture, the Mainichi Shimbun has found. Full story

Female workers earn 70% of what male colleagues receive at listed firms in Japan: survey

(Getty Images)

TOKYO — The wages of female regular employees at listed companies in Japan stand at 71.7% of those of their male counterparts, apparently due in part to the positions they hold, a survey by Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd. has found. Full story

Nagoya mayor backtracks after saying ‘wives’ have time to pick up docs on weekdays

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura speaks at an Oct. 16, 2023, press conference at city hall where he said that “wives” could come pick up official documents on weekdays. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

NAGOYA — The mayor of this central Japan city backtracked mid-press conference here on Oct. 16 after suggesting that “wives” had the time to come pick up official documents from municipal offices on weekdays. Full story

Japan city pulls ‘anachronistic’ flyers sent to expectant mothers

The flyer whose distribution was suspended by the Onomichi Municipal Government.

ONOMICHI, Hiroshima — The government of this west Japan city on July 24 suspended the distribution of flyers aimed at counselling pregnant women amid a flurry of criticism over their gender-biased undertones. Full story

‘No singing’: Outdated culture stifles women’s role in Japan’s volunteer firefighting teams

“No singing!” (Mainichi)

“Volunteer firefighting brigades have an exasperating, male-dominated culture where women cannot raise their voices,” one female leader of a squad branch in west Japan told the Mainichi Shimbun. “As it is, I don’t think there’s any place for women or young people to play an active role in the current system,” she said. Full story

Japan schools easing gender-based rules for uniforms

Students at Gyoda Junior High School in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, try on the new uniforms to be introduced in April, on Feb. 3, 2023. Skirts, pants, neckties and bow ties can all be coordinate with the gender-free blazers. (Mainichi/Tsuyoshi Goto)

TOKYO — “Girls wear skirts, boys wear pants,” used to be the common expectation for school uniforms in Japan. But recently, students are being offered more options, no longer bound by the conventions of “boyish” and “girlish.” As momentum builds to change school rules nationwide, a social trend respecting diversity from a “gender-free” point of view seems to be emerging. Full story

Genderless school swimwear goes on sale to general public in Japan

This photo provided by Footmark Corp. shows children wearing genderless swimsuits with the same design for both male and female wearers.

TOKYO — A Tokyo-based company began selling genderless swimsuits featuring a long-sleeved top and shorts — developed for use in school swimming lessons — to the general public on April 19. Full story

Elementary school textbooks in Japan to greater respect gender equality, diversity

Textbooks on moral education, health and physical education and other subjects at Japanese elementary schools are notable for their descriptions of gender equality and coexistence in society, as seen in this photo. (Mainichi/Emi Naito)

TOKYO — Flower arrangement for boys and baseball for girls are some of the examples shown in elementary school textbooks to be used in Japan from the 2024 academic year onward, which will increasingly showcase gender equality and diversity. Full story

Japan PM: Ban on same-sex marriage not discrimination

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at his office in Tokyo on June 10, 2022. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

(AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the country’s ban on same-sex marriage is not discriminatory, insisting that constitutional freedom of marriage only envisions heterosexual unions, a comment that triggered criticism he is backtracking despite his recent apology and meeting with LGBTQ people.Full story

Japan LGBTQ rights group calls out misinfo over public bath use and trans women

Transgender people, from left Aki Nomiya, Minori Tokieda and Fumino Sugiyama, hold signs calling for an end to trans hate during a news conference in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on March 16, 2023. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO — An LGBTQ rights group called for “calm discussions” regarding a bill to promote understanding of sexual minorities in Japan amid misinformation that “men will be able to enter women’s public baths just by saying ‘I’m a woman inside.'” Full story


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