National / Politics

U.N. panel drops criticism of Japan's male-only Imperial lineage after Tokyo protests

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

A United Nations committee agreed to remove criticism of Japan’s male-only Imperial succession from a report this week after Tokyo complained, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday.

In the final report, released Monday, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women highlighted problems faced by women in Japan.

An earlier draft, shown to Japanese officials over the weekend, contained criticism of the 1947 Imperial House Law, which allows only a male to succeed the Chrysanthemum throne, Suga said, when questioned about media reports on the matter.

“We requested that the descriptions of the Imperial House Law be deleted,” Suga said.

He said “it’s obvious” that the succession system is not designed to discriminate against women.

“The Imperial system of our country and the royal systems of various countries have always been based on popular support and reflect the history and traditions of each country.”

Suga added, Japanese officials told the committee it was “absolutely inappropriate” to take issue with the Imperial House Law.

The U.N. committee is the body of experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Whether a woman should be allowed to reign is a politically controversial issue in Japan.

Conservative, right-leaning politicians and scholars have argued that the male-only system should be maintained both to retain the blood lineage of the Imperial family and to uphold a sense of traditional values in society.

However, a 2012 poll by Japan Association for Public Opinion Research, which is affiliated with Kyodo News, showed 65 percent of 1,793 respondents said a female member of the Imperial family should be allowed to reign as Empress. Only 23 percent said they oppose it.

There has been a sea change in public opinion on this in recent years. A 1984 poll by the same institute found that only 25.4 percent of men and 28.2 percent of women believed an Empress should be allowed to reign.

Support surged over the next two decades, as a 2005 poll by JAPOR showed that 77 percent of males and 85.4 percent of females believed a female should be allowed to rise to the Imperial throne.

Japan is believed to have had eight reigning Empresses in ancient times, but none of their children succeeded the throne and succession always reverted to a male in the male line.

There were no written rules mandating succession for males until 1889, when the previous Imperial House Law was enacted.

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