Dr. Yoriko Meguro
Representative of Japan
At the 48th session of the Commission on the Status of Women on Item 3: Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century"
3 March 2004
A "gender-equal society" is a peaceful place in which both women and men, as equal members, have the opportunity to exercise their individuality and capacity in full. It is also a place in which not only women, who account for half of the 63 hundred million people in the world, but also men can achieve well-being. Therefore Japan considers that the themes of the forty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which focus on the role of men and boys in gender equality and women's role in peace-building, are very timely and appropriate.
Now I would like to touch upon the first theme of the Commission: "The role of men and boys in achieving gender equality."
With stereotyped gender roles, it is assumed that men should work outside the home while women remain at home doing housekeeping and child-rearing, and these views seem still to persist in the world and in Japan. Due to these stereotypes, not only women but men as well are placed in a difficult situation where they are expected to work for very long hours and give up quality time they could otherwise spend with their families. A "gender-equal society" is a society where both women and men can reconcile work and family life and attain full self-realization regardless of their gender. We believe that the efforts to create such a society will lead to true gender equality.
Raising the awareness of men and boys is indispensable for the realization of a "gender-equal society." According to the public survey conducted by the Cabinet Office of Japan, 47 percent of Japanese interviewees oppose stereotyped gender roles. Although this number is 9.2 percent higher than it was five years ago, we believe that there is still much to be done in order to correct these stereotypes and promote gender equality based on respect for human rights.
Japan is attempting to improve its educational system in order to promote gender equality in every sphere of society, in schools, home, and the community. In schools, education with an emphasis on family and society and in accordance with the level of each child's development is given great importance. For example, there is a class in home economics once a week at every elementary and junior-high school in Japan, and boys as well as girls are required to attend. Career guidance for older students is also promoted in order to assist them in developing the ability to choose the course their lives will take based on their will and ability.
In social education, the Japanese Government provides assistance to enable women and men to participate in all kinds of social activities, especially for men to participate in child-rearing, housekeeping, education, nursing, and community activities together with women. We are also conducting learning programs to raise the awareness of parents so that mothers and fathers will cooperate with each other and fathers in particular will play a more active part in the education of their children.
The Government of Japan makes efforts to develop an employment environment where working women can display their ability fully without facing any sex discrimination and realize real gender equality in the workplace. However, there still is a de facto gap between male and female workers based on persistent stereotyped perceptions of gender roles.
To dissolve the gap, the Government of Japan is encouraging companies to take "positive action" by implementing a benchmark project that helps a company to measure its working environment for female workers by comparing it with that of other companies in the same industry, and by issuing a booklet presenting examples of positive actions taken by actual companies.
In response, there has been a change in companies' attitudes recently, as is evident from the remarks of the presidents of several major private companies. One said, "taking positive action is beneficial for the company," and another, "it makes a company aggressive to develop an employment environment in which women can make a major contribution."
At the same time, the Japanese Government is committed to ensuring that thirty percent of leadership positions in all spheres of society is occupied by women by 2020.
In Japan, since the birth rate is declining rapidly, it is crucial to take measures so that women and men can rear their children cooperatively. To that end, the Government of Japan formulated a policy entitled "Immediate Action Plan to Support the Development of the Next-generation" last March and has been promoting action on various fronts such as trying to change working patterns, including those of men to shorten working hours, and setting up a target percentage for child-care leave to encourage men to take time off for parenting. Furthermore, a law obliging local governments and major private firms to create action plans for the development of the next-generation passed the National Diet last July. Japan is determined to continue its focused and planned effort in this area until 2015.
There are still numerous challenges to be confronted in bringing change to the deep-rooted, stereotyped gender-roles, to setting up a women-friendly working environment, and to responding to the decreasing number of children in our country. Japan renews its commitment to further implementing its current policies.
Now let me turn to the second theme: "Women's equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building." Japan has been working on the issue of conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution as well as post-conflict peace-building from the viewpoint of how it can help countries requiring assistance from international society. Japan is determined to continue its efforts in the area of education for empowerment of women in/after conflicts for example, in cooperation with the United Nations, international organizations, other countries, and NGOs.
Still fresh in our memory is the excitement we felt when Resolution 1325 was adopted by the Security Council on 31 October, 2000. Japan fully supports the resolution and is making efforts towards its implementation.
"Human security" is a concept Japan has been promoting as one of the pillars of its foreign policy, and the protection of women under armed conflicts is regarded as one of the most important issues in human security. In "Human Security Now," the report that the Commission on Human Security submitted to the Secretary-General in May 2003, "the promotion of women's participation" is included under the issue of protection and empowerment of civilians under armed conflict. Moreover Japan's revised Official Development Assistance (ODA) Charter, which was approved by the Cabinet last August, lays out the four pillars of our policy on assistance, one of which is peace-building. It also states that a gender-equality perspective is particularly important in the formulation and implementation of aid policy and should always be taken into consideration. Japan recognizes the empowerment of women as indispensable for peace, security, and nation-building, and makes vigorous contributions to the world's peace and security through its collaboration with NGOs, its bilateral assistance, and its partnerships with international organizations such as the Trust Fund for Human Security and UNIFEM.
Japan would like to take this opportunity to express its appreciation to the co-chairs of the Commission on Human Security, Mrs. Sadako Ogata, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the present president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Mr. Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize laureate and a professor at Cambridge University, Dr. Frene Ginwala, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, and Ms. Sonia Picado, President of the Board of Directors of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, for their efforts to disseminate the concept of underlining "Human Security Now," which has been translated into Spanish, French, Russian, and Japanese from English. Japan believes that this report will generate a determination to realize empowerment and ownership by the women of the world.
Our assistance to Afghanistan is particularly noteworthy. In January 2002, Japan announced its reconstruction assistance plan at the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan, which included "the advancement of the status of women and their participation in nation-building" as one of its focal points. Clearly, Japan places great emphasis on women's participation in the post-war peace processes. Under the Taliban regime, women were deprived of freedom. Due to years of war, women became refugees, internally displaced persons and widows, and girls became orphans. Since one aspect of reconstruction is guaranteeing respect for human beings and civil rights as well as the social infrastructure, peace building without women's active participation is unimaginable. In this context, Japan would like to heartily congratulate the Afghan people, who have succeeded in drafting a new constitution that clearly mentions women's rights. The assistance from international community including Japan is bearing fruits. We consider that this sets a good example for the advancement of the status of women through democratization and the peace-building process.
Japan is actively involved in providing assistance to Afghan women by conducting projects such as dispatching gender experts to the Ministry of Women Affairs and receiving trainees from them, reconstructing girls' schools, establishing women's community centers through NGOs, and assisting refugees and displaced women through the Human Security Fund.
Japan reaffirms its commitment to following up Security Council Resolution 1325 and ensuring women's equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution as well as post-conflict peace-building.
To conclude, Madam Chair, Japan will promote and implement policies enhancing the status of women and advancing gender equality both within and outside our nation through close partnership with international organizations and civil society, including NGOs.
I thank you, Madam Chair.