Gender gap deeply ingrained in Japan, says top U.N. official Nakamitsu

Gender gaps remain significant in Japan as traditional roles for men and women are strongly reinforced in society and through mass media, leaving many women accustomed to restrictive norms and limited opportunities, a senior U.N. official has said.

“There is nothing you can’t do because you’re a woman. It’s important to make an effort, believing you can do anything,” Izumi Nakamitsu, undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, said in a recent interview.

Nakamitsu, the highest-ranking Japanese at the United Nations, said the roles of men and women are modeled to the public in various ways including through popular media.

“On TV debate programs, men discuss difficult subjects while female announcers are on the set like ornaments. On TV dramas, too, you might see men holding a business meeting and women serving them tea,” she said.

As a result, children are conditioned to accept gender boundaries as a natural part of society, Nakamitsu said, adding that such norms have been internalized to a highly abnormal degree in the country.

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