International legislatures continue to display that we are still technically in a man’s world, or at least, we are in the lawmaking field.
When Japanese politician Yuka Ogata was kicked out of a council session after bringing her seven-month-old baby to work, it sparked a debate on patriarchy and intolerance in the country’s employment infrastructure.
Ogata’s infant son was regarded as a visitor, which are prohibited according to Kumamoto Municipal Assembly rules. She eventually conceded and handed her baby to a friend.
The session was delayed by 40 minutes, prompting further criticism from other members of the assembly for bringing her child to the assembly.
Ogata says she brought her son to the session to illustrate the difficulties of being a working mother.
“I wanted the assembly to be a place where women who are raising children can also do a great job,” Ogata told Mainichi Daily.
Her actions pushed the country’s gender inequality issues further into the spotlight.
Just earlier this year, a vice minister faced criticism for using an official car to take her child to a nursery that was en route to her workplace. In August, another female politician was harassed for being pregnant.
Other mothers began to opt for contractual temp jobs instead of permanent positions after laws failed to support shorter working hours.
Japan ranked 114 out of 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2017 and continues to face gender gap issues regarding limited childcare options, harassment in the workplace for expectant mothers, and the traditional expectation for women to quit their jobs after giving birth.
More importantly, what these recent events have shown is that Japan is in need of reform when it comes to policies relevant to working mothers.
Sophia University political science professor Mari Miura says Ogata’s actions brought attention to the problematic assumption that Japanese lawmakers are all men. As a consequence, careers in the legislature have become non-inclusive to women.
“Opinions of people with different backgrounds should be reflected in any decision-making process. And women with children should not be excluded from this process (due to difficulties in juggling work and child-rearing),” Miura said. “We need to create a system or environment to include those people in legislatures.
According to Ogata, a way to begin that reform is by having representation in the lawmaking sector.
“The whole reason why it’s so difficult to raise a child and have a career in Japan is because there are no women with children involved in the decision-making process,” Ogata said. “I’m determined to change that.”
It is the efforts from women like Yuka Ogata that will surely make a difference, and hopefully, inspire others to do so as well.
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