The upcoming Upper House election is the first nationwide Diet race since legislation urging political parties to equalize the number of male and female candidates was enacted last year. A total of 104 women have filed their candidacy in the campaign for the July 21 vote, accounting for a record 28.1 percent of the total and inching toward the government's goal of having women account for 30 percent of leadership roles in society by 2020. Whether the women will emerge from the race to accordingly boost their presence in the Diet is now up to the voters.
Japan lags far behind many other countries around the world in terms of women's participation in politics. According to the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union, Japan ranks 165th out of 193 nations — and worst among the Group of 20 major countries — in terms of the role of women in national politics. As of January, women held a mere 10.2 percent of the seats in the Lower House — less than half the average 24.3 percent among countries in the IPU survey — and 20.7 percent in the Upper House.
With the aim of having more diverse views reflected in politics, the law enacted in May 2018 calls on each party to take voluntary steps, such as setting numerical targets, to equalize as much as possible the number of men and women running on its ticket in national and local elections. Because the legislation is nonbinding, how effective it will be in boosting the presence of women in politics depends a great deal on the efforts by each of the parties.