In Japan, Women's Constitutional Rights in Peril

A return to family values may leave women in the dark

| May 12, 2005

In an effort to reinforce national family values in Japan, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is pushing to rewrite Article 24 of the island nation's constitution -- the legal crux of women's rights in post-World War II Japan.

The LDP says the move is necessary to stem a tide of individualism that's corrupting family and community values. As Masahiro Morioka, an LDP member in the House of Representatives, said in a report on Article 24, 'The constitution must ensure that protecting family is the foundation of securing the nation.'

Women's rights advocates say protecting family translates to pushing women to stay at home, increase the birth rate, and care for an increasingly elderly population. 'The government is borrowing family values -- which attack women -- from the US. It's the same thing, but the only difference is that we don't use religious language, we use nationalistic language,' Hisako Motoyama, an Osaka activist, told Women's eNews.

If the revision passes both houses of Japan's National Diet, a national referendum likely would be the next step. And while almost 100 groups have banded together to protest changing Article 24, there's a growing fear that the seductive power of nationalism and the illustrious draw of family values will win out.
-- Marca Bradt

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