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Challenge Accepted

So the other day, someone commented on a picture on the Instagram page saying that we don't need feminism anymore, challenging me to "name one right that first world country women don't have". I ignored it at the time because it was clear that (s)he doesn't understand the depth of the feminist movement (equal rights doesn't seem to equate to actual equality), plus it's rather selfish to condemn feminist action because your little part of the world is "unaffected" by inequality. For those two reasons I rolled my eyes and moved on, until I discovered a right that women don't have in a first world country. 'Ha!' I thought, more proof of his/her ignorance, YAY!

So what's this right, you ask?

Women are legally excluded from the Imperial line of succession... Meaning, under Japan's current legal framework, a woman cannot ascend the Japanese Imperial throne! Shame!

Let me start by making it clear that Japanese Emperors, as of the 1947 post-war constitution, are simply a "symbol of the State and of the unity of the People". I should also mention that before the Meiji constitution of 1889, 9 women (out of 122, so just a tiny fraction) had indeed ascended the throne, not purely as a wife or widow but with blood rights to the throne as well. It is clear, from the small number of women that have been proclaimed Empress in their own rights, that men are the preferable successors. Women were only used as a sort of stopgap when no male descendant was available.

BUT from 1889, women were deliberately excluded from imperial succession, with Article 2 of the Meiji Constitution (the Constitution of the Empire of Japan) stating, "The Imperial Throne shall be succeeded to by imperial male descendants, according to the provisions of the Imperial House Law." In 1947, when a new constitution was formed, Japan's leaders had a chance to review this, however, they chose to ignore their promise for equality by upholding the 1889 law.

The birth of the crowned prince's first child, a girl, sparked debate as to whether or not to open the chain of succession to women. Neither the crowned prince nor his only brother had given birth to male heirs, meaning there was no legal heir to the throne in the latest generation. By 2005/6 the general (political) consensus moved in favour of amending the law to permit both men and women to ascend the throne, depending on birth order. BUT when a bouncing baby boy was born to the royal family (son of the crowned prince's brother) pressure was lifted and no action was taken, despite the fact that this inequality is blatantly unconstitutional! (Article 14. of the Constitution of Japan states, "All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.")

Furthermore, in 2011, Prime Minister Noda called for debate on whether or not women could keep their royal status after marriage, thus enabling them to form their own branches (so their sons could be heirs). BUT (lovely) after years of hearings, the debate was inconclusive, and symbolically ended when Princess Noriko left the imperial family upon her marriage. Although the proposal for princesses to retain their status after marriage had a lot of public support, some government officials weren't convinced of the necessity. The Prime Minister himself failed to speak on the matter frequently enough, thus giving room for government officials to say that the issues "does not appear to be a pressing task". Debate over the princesses' post-marital imperial status wasn't even done in favour of women's rights and equality in the imperial household, but rather as a measure to mitigate against a lack of an eligible heir, as the imperial family gets smaller and smaller.

Kinda disappointing, but there you have it: there is at least one right that women in the developed world don't have. So sad :( My favourite country in the world needs to do a bit better :((

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