Fight for Gender Equality in Japan

Before the 19th century, women in Japan were taught to obey a male: husband, father, brother and even a son. In addition, Japanese women were prohibited, by law, from expressing political views, attending political meetings, and joining political parties.

The first proponents for women’s rights in Japan advocated for reforms in the patriarchal society that was oppressing women. Later, women’s rights advocates begun to fight for voting rights or political inclusion. The key women rights activists were Shidzue Katō, Fusae Ichikawa, Shigeri Yamataka and Hiratsuka Raichō. The fight against women suppression bore fruits when women were allowed to participate in politics in 1921. After women were allowed to participate in political assemblies, a number of women’s interest groups emerged.

In 1970, a new women’s liberation movement emerged called ūman ribu (woman lib). The movement criticized the male-dominated nature of Japan and asked for a fundamental change in the political-economic system in Japan in order to recognize the rights of women.

In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This convention was ratified by Japanese government in 1985.

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