Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Monday, 10 December, 2001, 10:05 GMT
Should Japan change its constitution?
The birth of a baby girl to Japan's Crown Princess Masako and her husband Crown Prince Naruhito has brought joy to the Japanese public but has also reignited the debate whether a woman should be allowed to occupy the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Japan's constitution forbids women from ruling as emperor, but under those rules the imperial line of succession ends with Prince Naruhito or his brother, Prince Akishino. Neither has so far fathered a male heir.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said he has no plans to change the law but women have ruled before and at least one senior politician, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, has said he would support a female emperor.

Japanese national identity is closely linked to the imperial family so should the law be changed to avoid a potential crisis? Is it unfair that men are allowed to become emperor but women are not? Or would it be better for the imperial family, the world's oldest ruling line, to be allowed to slip quietly into history?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.


Your reaction:


I think that the Japanese royal family should make their own decision

Susan T, Port Talbot, Wales
I think that the Japanese royal family should make their own decision. They can leave the whole thing behind them or make their first child the heir to the throne. Too much trouble has been made over the centuries with extended families fighting for power, just because there was no male heir. A woman is more than capable of ruling a country, as we can see from history.
Susan T, Port Talbot, Wales

Of course they should change their constitution. Like all sensible nations dedicated to the ideals of democracy they should remove the monarchy altogether and create a democratically elected head of state.
Graham, UK

Let us not pretend that the Japanese constitution has never changed before. Their government structure has undergone two dramatic changes in the last 150 years: the Meiji Constitution, following 1868, and the post-WWII constitution. It is possible to change the constitution and maintain the continuity of the imperial line.
Kate, USA


The imperial family is an important part of Japanese life

Bob Carr, UK
The Japanese royal family claim descent through continuous line for thousands of years. The new princess follows that line and, whilst I agree that it is for Japan to decided and not anyone else, surely this must play an important factor. Despite one or two comments above, I believe that the imperial family is an important part of Japanese life and should continue.
Bob Carr, UK

Haven't Western nations interfered enough in the internal affairs of other countries? When will we ever learn? If the Japanese people want to see the Constitution of their country changed it's their decision. We don't have electoral rights there, we shouldn't be going round assuming what's good and what's not for every other country on the planet!
Michelle, UK

Britain will shortly celebrate (I hope) a Golden Jubilee. With a record such as that as a model, I see no reason why the Japanese cannot see the benefits of a female sovereign.
Robert del Valle, USA


A change in the law would greatly advance the status of Japanese women in all spheres of life

Matthew, USA
I applaud the idea. Japan is a notoriously sexist society. I think a change in the law to allow female monarchs would be a powerful symbol, and greatly advance the status of Japanese women in all spheres of life. It might even help change attitudes in other countries.
Matthew, USA

It's ironic when you consider that the Emperors claim to have received their mandate from a Goddess in the first place.
Jon Livesey, USA

So much of Japanese society is unfair to women and the banning of women from inheriting the thrown is no different. I believe it would be more meaningful if Japan spent more effort ridding itself of its misogynistic ways...undoubtedly the country would benefit greatly.
Jeannine, Chicago, USA

If I were Japanese then I would say yes, however I'm not so it's none of my business. Just because we think it is right and proper doesn't make it any of our business what happens in Japan. Cultural imperialism is very dated since September 11th - and that is what this talking point is.
Tim, Yorkshire


Most of us are just happy to see a new baby in the Imperial family and don't really care whether if it is a girl or boy

Takuya Isogai, Japan
Most of us are just happy to see a new baby in the Imperial family and don't really care whether if it is a girl or boy honestly. Japan has had eight empresses serving ten periods if I remember correctly. So there is not so much heated debate here in Japan right now. People say let's not spoil this great moment in this family with political debates right now, but we will just do the right thing when things are ready. That's also Prime minister Koizumi implied too.
For the time being, I just hope the Princess and the Prince enjoy what all the parents enjoy - celebrating the birth of new life.
Takuya Isogai, Japan

Time has come for Japan to change its rusty constitution. And change, it must. It is not gender's dictation on rule but simply how one is trained in life to accomplish a task or task(s).
Habib Hemani, USA

The Crown Princess of Sweden has a younger brother, yet no one makes a fuss about this factoid.
T.J. Cassidy, USA


They should do whatever they themselves feel is the best way of securing the future of the Imperial family

Michael, Dublin, Ireland
They should do whatever they themselves feel is the best way of securing the future of the Imperial family. That might be to change the constitution, or maybe not. I trust the judgement of a household that has survived so long.
Michael, Dublin, Ireland

It would have mattered much more were women allowed succession in times when the post of emperor had real power. Giving women the right of succession now that the monarch is little more than an ornament may even be counter-productive for the cause of gender equality.
Martha Stubbins, UK

Anyone either male, female, colour of skin is immaterial. If one has the capability to rule or to be in power provided they can do it with peace then they are they leader and others people in and out of the nation should respect they capability.
Jamal, Malaysia

Most Japanese fall asleep at the mention of the Imperial family, a remote and increasingly ceremonial institution. Debating a question like this is like asking whether the Lord Mayor of London should have two feathers in his hat or three. It is not as if the girl will necessarily have a worse life for not becoming Emperor.
George, Japan


Remember the importance in Japanese culture of history and tradition as the stabilising force behind a fast-moving society

Andy Millward, UK
Remember the importance in Japanese culture of history and tradition as the stabilising force behind a fast-moving society. Some things which are plainly obvious to us take generations to change within these circles and are often fraught with difficulty. Be sympathetic and encouraging to the Japanese rather than dismissive!
Andy Millward, UK

This is a contentious issue: currently women's rights are a means of demonising entire countries. Japan had female rulers in the past, and much like the British monarchy, currently there is no power associated with it's monarchs. When the Queen is no longer the Queen, and if a man takes her place is that a regression to a less evolved state of political thinking. I don't think so. And to be frank I find other political developments in the world worry me a lot more than this one.
Anon, Japan


We had several female emperors before the end of the19th century

Nami, Japan
Why not? We had several female emperors before the end of the19th century. However, they had to be virgins as this was the social norm of the time. However, in modern society such an idea does not make sense. I will definitely support changing the Japanese constitution and a possible female emperor should be allowed to get married.
Nami, Japan

I think Japan must change the constitution because we are in the 21st century and women should have the same rights as men.
Mari, Spain


Perhaps other societies should try to copy their way of life

Mark, UK
The fact that the imperial family is the world's oldest ruling line suggests that the concept works and that perhaps other societies should try to copy their way of life rather than attempt to influence change.
Mark, UK

Of course Japan should change its constitution. Cultures are not frozen in time. They evolve and adapt. They always have done - that's what keeps them vibrant. A culture that tries to remain the same for all time is a dead one.
Michael Entill, UK

In general I don't really like the idea of a monarchy anywhere. But if there has to be one let the first-born child, no matter whether it's a boy or a girl, inherit the throne.
Christine, UK


When are people going to learn that leadership skills are based on personality not gender?

Wendy Saunt, UK
I do find this sort of patriarchy completely unjustifiable and misogynistic. What exactly are the arguments for passing power down the male line? That women couldn't lead a country at war (say that to Elizabeth I)? That women can't command respect (say that to Victoria)? Or that women can't be ruthless (say that to Thatcher)? When are people going to learn that leadership skills are based on personality not gender?
Wendy Saunt, UK

This reminds me of the 'Should Australia become a republic?' debate. Back then, I said that this was nothing to do with anyone outside of Australia and was a question that only the Australian people could answer.
So now I will give a similar answer - this is a question that only Japan can answer and that has nothing to do with the rest of us.
Graham, London, England

In response to Graham from London I would pose this question: fundamentally speaking, is there any difference between outsiders making an argument that Afghan women should be given the right to attend school and making one that Japanese women should have rights to the throne?
Tylor Boland, USA

See also:

03 Dec 01 | Business
Japan relishes baby boom
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories