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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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
It's ironic when you consider that the Emperors claim to have received their mandate from a Goddess in the first place.
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.
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.
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).
The Crown Princess of Sweden has a younger brother, yet no one makes a fuss about this factoid.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think Japan must change the constitution because we are in the 21st century and women should have the same rights as men.
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.
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.
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.
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?
03 Dec 01 | Business
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