In the 70 years since women in Japan gained suffrage at the national level, politics has remained male-centric. Women continue to account for a only small portion of the Diet seats, trailing behind much of the rest of the world. As the government hoists a goal of increasing the ratio of women in leadership positions to 30 percent by 2020, female lawmakers occupy less than 10 percent of the Lower House seats and number not much more than the 39 who were elected to the Diet for the first time in 1946.

This gender imbalance is clearly unhealthy, especially as social values in Japan become increasingly diverse and tough challenges confronting the nation need more policy responses than what its male-dominated politics can offer. Both voters and lawmakers should stop and think about what's behind the situation and what needs to be done to change it.

The 39 women who won Lower House seats in the first post-World War II election in April 1946 accounted for 8.4 percent of the total. The 45 women who won in the most recent general election in 2014 constituted a mere 9.5 percent of the 475 Lower House seats. According to an international comparison by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union, Japan ranked 156th out of 191 countries in terms of women's proportion in lower chamber seats of parliament as of February. The nation by far trails the IPU-estimated worldwide average of 22.7 percent of parliamentary seats occupied by women.