Calcutta, June 4 (2014), Alochonaa: Since, the rise of China, the world’s gaze has been shifted, to Asia; and undoubtedly India and Japan make the alternate most deserving choices for this attention, with their new important status in global affairs.
“You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”, said Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. Hence, the empowerment of women has emerged as a ‘Sine-quo-non’ of the progress of a country in recent times.
With the turn of the 20th century, women’s status began to rise in Japan. Today, women make up the majority of Japan’s population, and therefore have a significant impact on the country’s dynamics. Like many cultures around the world, Japan has been entrenched in a patriarchal framework for many centuries. During the post world war II era, Japanese women began to experience further education and new job opportunities that transformed their lives. In Sumiko Iwao’s book, The Japanese Women, she narrates the story of Akiko, a woman representative of the post-war generation, born in 1948.
However, most of the women in Japan are low-paid workers engaged in the part time services, whose labor is largely unskilled. Many women work in the “kagyo” a household based business. Most Japanese women quit working after marriage and maternity.
The roles of Japanese women in the interrelated areas of politics and consumer activism offer an interesting paradox. Women comprise a larger voting bloc then men, yet the number of women elected to the Diet (legislature) is pitifully small.
The current generation of Japanese women is in some ways victims of the past, trapped by the conflicting poles of old and new. They have an access to education and employment but are often subjected to discrimination. They have limited rights when it comes to choosing their maternity through contraception or abortion and still feel embarrassed to discuss such issues openly. They feel embarrassed to ask for justice when attempts to malign their chastity are made. There are limited punishment scopes for rapists and molesters.
The Equal Opportunity Law, effective in 1986, stated that women are equal to men and should not be treated any differently in recruitment, positions, promotion, or any other aspect of their employment. Unfortunately, there are no serious punishments for violation of this law and it only serves as a stepping-stone to aid women in the workplace.
Gender inequalities also interact with environmental outcomes and make them worse. New analysis shows how power imbalances and gender inequalities at the national level are linked to reduced access to clean water and improved sanitation, land degradation and deaths due to indoor and outdoor air pollution, amplifying the effects associated with income disparities. Sustainable development therefore directly reinforces permeation of quality in developmental efforts related to women, with pronounced concern for justice, equality and economic freedom for women.
The status of women is a crucial parameter of the growth and development of a nation and discrimination against women is a psychological evil, therefore no matter how stringent laws are atrocities against women can only be done away with once the outlook of the society towards them changes in general.
This can be pursued by increasing awareness regarding the various problems women face. It is time that the docile and submissive image of the Japanese woman subsides and gives way to a more progressive and freethinking Japanese woman of the 21st century. Religion, literature and tales which are bequeathed through generations are also a good source to imbibe the thought of women being free spirited and self sufficient creatures not merely processions of their fathers or husbands; into the mindset of the masses.
Women, once encouraged and motivated can contribute immensely to the economy of the nation, hence their entrepreneurial drives and education should be facilitated through grants, aids, and other forms of government support. Japan has one of the world’s best-educated populations, with high rates enrollment in compulsory grades and extremely low rates of illiteracy.
The homely kagyo system can be modernized and collectivized in the model of the Indian Self Help Groups, where small groups of women are encouraged to take up entrepreneurship and resultant self-sufficiency. In fact, seats can also be considered to be reserved to the Diet like the Indian legislatures for women for increasing their participation. Research must be conducted on macro effects on micro conditions for women. Institutions must involve women at national and grassroots levels.
The Global South is in talks these days due to its prompt urge for development and quests for better representation. However, incomprehensive in Development is incompletion, therefore, it is time that Asia and the other developing societies strive for a more inclusive position of Women.
*Abhismita Sen writes from West Bengal India. She is a postgraduate student at Jadavpur University, she is currently an intern at the Unique Identification Authority of India.
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