TV & Radio
Dispatches from the gender battlefield
Mainichi Daily News 2006/05/06
In 2003, Miyakonojo City in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu, became the first municipality to recognize marriage between individuals of the same sex (or people of bisexual orientation). Citizens, businesses and educators were also obliged to end discriminatory treatment based on "sexual preferences." But after the defeat of Tatsuya Iwahashi in the city's mayoral election the following year, people began raising their voices in opposition. The controversy became moot when, in 2006, Miyakonojo merged with four surrounding towns and the law was dropped from the books.
Kuwana City in Mie Prefecture, meanwhile, might be home to the most extreme ordinance of all. Passed by the city assembly in 2002, it obliged businesses "at the earliest opportunity" to adopt a gender balance of employees; pay them equal wages; maintain an equal ratio of male-to-female managers; and apply the principle of "gender free" to all aspects of education and learning in the city's schools. It also prohibited "sexist" language. Like Miyakonojo, it was repealed earlier this year due to a merger between several municipalities.
The above instances, appearing in a series of articles in Sapio (5/10) under the headline "Gender free on the rampage," underscores a seldom-reported aspect of contemporary Japan: efforts by feminists and others to re-orient people's perceptions toward gender equality, and the backlash it generates among those who say it is impractical, a horrendous waste of money -- 10 trillion yen by one reckoning -- and an absurd affront to millennia of Japanese tradition.
Kenzo Yoneda, 58, a former cabinet vice-minister and currently professor at Teikyo Heisei University, denounces the "Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society," which was passed by the National Diet in 1999, during the tenure of the late prime minister Keizo Obuchi.
The looming "White Cultural Revolution" -- a euphemism for feminist-inspired rules and regulations -- is a threat to Japan's established order, warns Yoneda. Indeed, the social anarchy the new law is threatening to unleash, he suggests, evokes memories of post-revolutionary Russia under the Bolsheviks; Cambodia under Pol Pot's homicidal Khmer Rouge; or perhaps China, when the Red Guards ran rampant during its "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution."
Yoneda raises this example: The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare had arranged, via an affiliated organization, to distribute a sex education pamphlet, "The Love & Body Book," to middle schools around the country.
The book contained the following passage: "To give birth or not give birth. To make a baby or not make one... the decision is entirely mine."
This "freedom to give birth," mutters Yoneda, "reflects blind compliance with the tenets of feminism, in accordance with the abovementioned Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society."
Yoneda issued an instruction to an official for the books to be withdrawn from the schools, but his order was initially refused. He finally got his way by going over the official's head to vice-minister Kamoshita of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
Citing another example, Yoneda writes that Chiba Prefecture, in an awkward attempt to comply with the Basic Law, passed an ordinance that obliges companies to make sure a requisite ratio of males to females are hired. But for construction firms in the prefecture, whose work forces are overwhelmingly male, such a law is impractical. Their solution was simple: they placed "phantom women" on the employee rolls.
Wacky examples of the law's application are everywhere, even in unisex posters at rail stations warning against groping on trains. "It's strange to always portray women as victims of gropers," was its stated rationale.
Well, counters Yoneda, it's certainly possible that a gent might be on the receiving end of a friendly fondle from a fellow commuter. But only in the rarest of cases. Applying the gender equality law in such an extreme case, he argues, is "totally detached from reality."
"This is a horrible law," Yoneda tells Sapio. "Unless it is repealed outright, or revised, its continued existence portends the imminent demise of Japan as a nation."
(By Masuo Kamiyama, People's Pick contributor)
May 6, 2006