Local Response to Paradigm Shift in Gender Politics: An International Comparison of Sweden, France, and Japan

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:10
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Mayumi SAEGUSA, Nagoya University, Japan
The Beijing Conference on Women and the Platform for Action (PFA) shifted paradigms of gender equality politics. International actors have recognized the need to bring about fundamental change in lingering gender inequalities. This research compares three countries -Sweden, France, and Japan- which have adopted different approaches to implement the PFA, by analyzing the documentary data and in-depth interviews with gender equality advocates in the three countries.

Sweden, one of the most gender equal countries, has adopted gender mainstreaming. By weakening the national machinery, Sweden has incorporated gender equality agenda in all policies at all levels. However, everyone’s responsibility becomes no one’s responsibility, so that Sweden experiences setbacks in gender equality following Beijing. In Sweden, there is no quota legislation of any kind.    

No country other than France has introduced strict positive action measures. Traditionally, quotas were not welcomed and viewed as contrary to the French idea of equality. A revision of the Constitution was thus needed to adopt gender quotas. Positive action measures have been reinforced since the victory of the left in 2012. The parity government and women’s rights ministry were born. In 2015, a binominal election was hold at the local level: voters were choosing pairs of candidates – one man and one woman. France has experienced major progress in gender equality for the last two decades.

Japan, ragging behind in the gender equality race, expanded the legal framework to promote gender equality and implemented “the basic law for a gender equal society in 1999. The introduction of the basic act symbolized momentum for the women’s movement and promoting gender equality. However, a gender backlash occurred as a reaction to the basic act. Due to the backlash, Japan experienced setbacks in gender equality until recently. The neoliberal government today highlights the gender equality agenda to prime economy.