The first Lower House election in the postwar period, held on April 10, 1946, was a significant milestone for women’s political participation in Japan. Some 13.8 million women cast ballots for the first time and 39 female candidates were elected, accounting for 8.4 percent of the seats in the Lower House. Today, the percentage of female members of the Lower House stands at 10.2 percent, a mere 2 percent rise after more than seven decades. Clearly, progress on this front has been far too slow.

When discussing women’s participation in society, the oft-used indicator is the annual gender gap report compiled by the World Economic Forum. The 2018 report ranked Japan at 110th out of 149 countries. This was the result of the scores in the four main fields — “economic participation and opportunity,” “education attainment,” “health and survival,” and “political empowerment.” The breakdown of the scores show that when it comes to women in parliament, Japan ranks 130th out of 149 nations, indicating that the biggest factor pushing down Japan’s overall ranking is the area of political empowerment.

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