Missing in Action: Structural Gender Analysis in Societal Responses to Domestic Violence in Japan
The enactment of the Spousal Violence Prevention Act in 2001 symbolizes a societal and governmental recognition of the problem, yet at the same time it represented a shift in the definition from a socially-rooted problem of patriarchal violence against women to an individual/interpersonal level problem of spousal violence. Consequently, the available social programs center on temporary assistance to abused spouses with virtually no measure to address structural gender inequity or patriarchal social norms. After a considerable decline from the late 1970’s to 2000’s, the proportion of adults who endorse gendered division of labor has been a rise over the last decade. Structural barriers to women’s gainful employment remain strong, including gender wage gap, the lack of affordable child care, sexual harassment, as well as the taxation and social security systems that provide substantial financial incentives for one spouse (usually the wife) to earn less than a certain threshold.
By analyzing the ways in which domestic violence was defined first by the feminist activists and researchers and how it is being redefined in the legislative and political processes, this paper examines the current lack of structural gender analysis in the societal responses to domestic violence and its relationship to the larger socio-political-historical factors in present Japan.