Two Japanese women started “All-Japan Obachan Party”, a political party that aims to balance the gender gap and to increase women rights, as well as women’s presence in the government. The party was established six months ago as the result of a Facebook comment and now has more than 2,000 members, while the numbers are still growing.
In Japanese, “obachan” is a word that means aunt, but is sometimes used to refer to a middle-aged or elderly woman in a derogatory way. However, the new political party is trying to reform the image of Japan’s obachans, according to the local press.
Vice Presidents Hiroko Inokuma, a journalist and professor at Tokyo City University, and Tomoko Saotome, an obstetrician and gynecologist, spoke at Tokyo’s Foreign Correspondents Club to introduce their party and what they hope to accomplish for women in Japan.
While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claims that he wants to increase the role of women in Japanese society, the All-Japan Obachan Party fears that the traditionally minded ruling Liberal Democratic Party will promote old-style cultural values where women stay at home, stay quiet, and men work, the international press comments.
According to the World Economic Forum, in 2012 Japan ranked 101 out of 135 nations in gender equality. The new party wants to redress this: better rights, job opportunities, equal pay, and adequate levels of child care for women wanting to work.
“If we particularly focus on comments given by our regional members, people who live in rural areas, quite often women say that they have been prohibited from speaking out about politics or even having an opinion about politics. Quite often, the pressure comes from the mother-in-law, who takes a very strong stance that women should stay in the home and not think about or talk about politics,” said Inokuma.
“The first thing these women realize when they join our forums is that they can talk about these things, they can have an opinion, and it is really a revelation for them.”