TV & Radio
Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006
A Pregnant Pause
A princess' surprise news spurs a ceasefire in the battle over Japan's Imperial succession
BY JIM FREDERICK
Japan seems to have averted the prospect of revolutionary change. In January 2005, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi appointed a panel to develop suggestions for warding off a looming succession crisis in the imperial family. By law and eons of tradition, the Japanese throne can pass only to males with emperors on the father's side. But no boys have been born into the family since 1965. Crown Prince Naruhito, 45, and his wife Masako, 42, have had only one daughter, 4-year-old Aiko. Naruhito's brother, Prince Akishino, 40, and his wife, Kiko, 39, have two daughters. So Koizumi's panel suggested that succession should pass to the Emperor's firstborn, regardless of gender. Assuming that Naruhito succeeds his father, Emperor Akihito, Aiko would then be in line for the throne. The panel's plan seemed wildly popular and Koizumi vowed to introduce a bill to modify the law this March.
But traditionalists, for whom the paternal line of succession is a defining characteristic of Japan's imperial legacy, started to protest. Echoing the shifting mood, on Feb. 4 the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's most liberal major newspaper, said that "Revision of the law must be considered through calm discussion." At a rally on Feb. 1, 173 Diet members signed a petition opposing a "premature submission of the bill."
Then came the shocker. On Feb. 7, news leaked that Princess Kiko was pregnant—11 years after she last gave birth. To many, the timing of the leak (just before the bill's submission) and that of the baby's conception (just after the panel's recommendation) seemed, well, like happy coincidences. Koizumi promptly tabled the bill. If the child is a boy, traditionalists will know that their prayers have been answered. And if it isn't? Then they'll just have to offer up some more.
With reporting by Toko Sekiguchi
From TIME Asia Magazine, issue dated February 20, 2006 Vol. 167, No. 7
Japan Times Editorial: The case for a baby princess
毎日新聞 2006年2月13日 19時27分
毎日新聞 2006年2月13日 19時27分
The case for a baby princess
The Japan Times: Feb. 12, 2006
No wonder the Crown Princess gets depressed. The spectacle of the chasm between the Imperial family and the 21st century has long been enough to depress anyone. But then, just when the princess must have thought the gap might be closing a bit, given the prime minister's efforts to win the right of succession for the family's female members, along comes an unexpected pregnancy to send everything back to square one.
It is not that the princess would not wish to congratulate her brother- and sister-in-law, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, on their joyous news. The whole nation does. It is just that she must dread having to explain to her 4-year-old daughter why people's joy seems to be so dependent on this new cousin being a boy. Whatever happened to the idea that girls are just as special, just as valued, as boys? How do you explain why some people think being a girl is such a crippling defect it automatically disqualifies you from a job that carries no power anyway? Or why it would still be empowering to women for a woman to accede to a position of such bizarre powerlessness?
Such questions and contradictions went to the heart of the Crown Princess's well-known uneasiness with the archaic system into which she had married. But now the fuss over Princess Kiko's pregnancy has thrown those contradictions into super-high relief. For a while, the world thought Japan was on the verge of letting its Imperial family edge into the modern age. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was pursuing a farsighted proposal for a legislative amendment that would permit female succession, and a majority of the public supported him.
Now, the possibility that the second-in-line to the throne may produce a male heir has shattered the impression that the country was about to take an important step forward. Mr. Koizumi himself appears to have determined not to make a rush about the issue of imperial succession in view of growing resistance to the idea of a female ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
If Japan was truly ready for a female emperor, why is everyone so thrilled about this pregnancy? Television announcers all but wept breaking the news on Tuesday. And opponents of the prime minister's plan appear giddy with relief at the thought that a boy could yet appear and save the nation from the frightful prospect of a reigning empress who could be succeeded in turn by her own daughters.
That last clause has been a particular bone of contention, stirring echoes of the 16th-century Scottish theologian John Knox's notorious "First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women." There is not a sliver of difference between Knox's view of the place of women in 1558 and the view held by the old guard of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2006: "To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire above any realm, nation, or city is repugnant to nature, contumely to God and the subversion of good order."
Unfortunately, the old guard may be right to think their cause has been boosted by Princess Kiko's pregnancy. Interviews in the street this past week suggest that much of the public support for Mr. Koizumi's proposal stemmed from the absence of a male heir; better Princess Aiko than no one, people hinted. Now that there is a chance of a boy, many appear to favor a wait-and-see approach.
That is a profoundly discouraging response, if not quite the virulent misogyny that has colored the campaign against Mr. Koizumi's plan in recent weeks. Some critics had become so desperate to keep a woman from the throne that they appeared willing not just to stall social advances but to reverse them. The Crown Prince and Princess could get a divorce, they said, thereby freeing the Crown Prince to "try again" for a son. No one explained what would happen if the Imperial couple did not want a divorce. Others advocated reviving the concubine tradition, of all things, or extending eligibility to male scions of dormant aristocratic "houses."
The public had not, by and large, embraced these retrograde suggestions. But the readiness of many people to see the new plan shelved or postponed suggests that the idea of equality has only shallow roots here: A woman is still second-best, a last resort. If Mr. Koizumi's proposal was the right thing to do last week, it still is this week, because women's equality must be seen as absolute, not relative.
Some might argue that this is all a tempest in a teacup, because the emperor system is purely symbolic, anyway. But that is exactly why it is important. What better vehicle than the monarchy to set a symbolic example on social issues? Last week's news has set that effort back -- but there is still room for optimism. The new baby might be a girl, thus putting this crucial debate back on track. Here's hoping.
The Japan Times: Feb. 12, 2006
Koizumi's succession bill looks set to wilt
The New York Times
February 13, 2006
Hawaii Agrees to Change Policies for Incarcerated Gay Youths
By JANIS L. MAGIN
HONOLULU, Feb. 12 — Under a settlement with the federal government, the state has agreed to make sweeping improvements at Hawaii's troubled youth prison in the next three years, but a civil liberties group that sued over the problems says the agreement does not go far enough to protect gay wards from harassment, abuse and discrimination.
The settlement with the Justice Department came last week as a federal district judge, J. Michael Seabright, issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit that was filed in September by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. The judge described conditions at the prison, the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, as "chaotic" and called for the state to stop the abuse and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender wards.
The lawsuit, coming after a Justice Department report last summer that described the 71-bed youth facility in Kailua as "existing in a state of chaos," was filed on behalf of an 18-year-old lesbian, an 18-year-old boy perceived by guards and other teenage wards to be gay and a 17-year-old male-to-female transgender girl. It says the teenagers were physically and verbally abused by staff members at the facility as well as by other wards because of their sexual and gender orientation.
"Everyone knew that the climate was pretty pervasive and nobody did anything about it," said Lois Perrin, legal director for the A.C.L.U. of Hawaii. Judge Seabright has scheduled a status conference on the case for Monday.
Hawaii's attorney general, Mark J. Bennett, said on Friday that the state planned to develop specific policies to deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender wards, and that state officials would consult with the A.C.L.U. in doing so.
Ms. Perrin, who delivered a list of proposed injunctions to the court on Friday, said the A.C.L.U. wanted the changes done under a court order and more quickly than the three years the state had to comply with the federal agreement.
"We're asking that they are not allowed to discriminate, harass or abuse wards, based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or sex," Ms. Perrin said. She said the A.C.L.U. also wanted the state to thoroughly investigate accusations of harassment and abuse, to stop using isolation to protect wards from abuse by other teens, and to provide a physically and psychologically safe environment.
The state's settlement agreement with the Justice Department imposes dozens of conditions on the youth prison, including the development of suicide prevention and intervention procedures, the protection of young wards from physical and sexual abuse, and the employment of enough staff members to adequately supervise and care for the wards. An independent monitor will oversee the state's changes.
The state also agreed to conduct criminal record checks within the next four months on all employees who worked directly with the youths.
"It certainly indicates that we need to make sure that the individuals who are employed at the facility who come in contact with youth are the right people to be working there," Mr. Bennett said.
He said the agreement, the result of four months of negotiations, did not include an admission of constitutional violations or other wrongdoing by the state. The state has three years to comply, or the Justice Department may refile its lawsuit.
"Obviously if we didn't think there were serious problems at the facility we wouldn't have entered into as comprehensive an agreement as this one was," Mr. Bennett said. "This agreement imposes substantial burdens on the state. It's going to be expensive and it's going to take time."
A number of Hawaii institutions have had trouble with the federal government. Thirteen years of federal oversight at Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, the state's mental health facility, ended a little over a year ago. The Oahu Community Correctional Center operated under federal supervision from 1985 to 1999 under a consent decree that limited the number of inmates.
Judge Blasts Hawai’i Juvenile Detention Facility for Pervasive Harassment of LGBT Youth