The female mayor in Tokyo fighting Japan's sexist attitudes – BBC
Satoko Kishimoto finds running one of Tokyo’s main districts to be a lonely job.
Back in June, the 48-year-old became the first female mayor in the history of Suginami. The former environmental activist and democracy advocate managed to beat the conservative incumbent by just 200 votes – a shock win for an independent candidate with no experience holding public office.
“We have to recognise as a national crisis this under-representation of women in politics,” Ms Kishimoto said.
“Women’s representation has stayed almost the same for 75 years. This is insane!”
Japan is the world’s third largest economy, but it has an abysmal record when it comes to the gender gap index. In the most recent report released by the World Economic Forum in July 2022, Japan ranked 116th out of 146 countries.
It is the worst performing G7 nation when it comes to gender issues. The country has never had a female prime minister, and there are only two women in the current cabinet.
I met Ms Kishimoto for the first time as she cycled into Suginami City Hall building for work – unusual for an average Japanese politician.
She tells me the first few months on the job have been a rough ride.
“As a fairly young woman… [this job] is automatically difficult,” she said.
“I’m not from bureaucracy, I’m not a politician. When I speak, people listen. But they’re not so easily convinced.”
By people, she means the men she works with. In her own district, most of the senior political posts below that of mayor are held by men.
“Issues like climate change, diversity, gender equality have been challenged by older politics – by the boys’ club politics.”
She tells me it’s frustrating for her and her staff.
“I really want to debate policies. But [a lot of] time is wasted in the city council addressing criticism and personal attacks.”
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Women’s representation has stayed almost the same for 75 years. This is insane!
This criticism is mostly about her gender but also her credentials and the fact that she doesn’t have the relevant experience. Essentially, she’s been abroad for too long – for the last 20 years she’s lived in Europe.
Ms Kishimoto is the first to admit that she’s an outsider but that this is part of her strength. “I have something else. I have looked at the Japanese society from a distance.” She added that this “international eye” has allowed her to view Japan’s challenges objectively – especially the stark contradictions in her country.
But even though she feels motivated by her job and the power she has to make change, she has felt moments of regret. “Sometimes, I say to myself, ‘What am I doing here?'”
Traditional social norms that still expect women to do the bulk of care and housework make it very difficult for them to pursue a career in politics, Ms Kishimoto added.
Other women who have also braved the political terrain tell me they often have to deal with misogyny and harassment.
Tomomi Higashi is a local council member in Tokyo’s Machida district, and was recently re-elected for a second term.
“I was most surprised by the physical harassment,” Ms Higashi said – saying there were times when she was touched inappropriately during the early days of campaigning. “I was shocked.”
“Being showered with insults by old men. [Men] coming very close to me and interrupting my speeches. Being asked to come for drinks at midnight. That’s when I really felt the male-dominated society. It was a wake-up call for me,” she said.
Tomomi Higashi has joined a group of other female local politicians, lawyers and researchers who started a website called Harassment Consultation Centre for Women in Politics.
They’re hoping their confidential online sessions can provide a safety net for women getting into politics.
Mari Hamada, a political researcher and one of the founders, said that while many surveys indicate the prevalence of harassment for female politicians, it’s very hard to get accurate numbers because most women are reluctant to speak out.
“In Japan, politicians are considered public figures and they are told to endure harassment,” Ms Hamada said.
Mana Tamura, the other founder of the website who ran for local office in 2022, said that she was told she wasn’t allowed to bring her three-year-old son campaigning.
“I couldn’t walk with my son, hold his hand or push the pram.” She was told this was against the rules.
“When I was on the street some men would say things like ‘Have you even given birth?’ or ‘Why don’t you run when you’ve had three kids?'”
“I was told not to make a fuss. I started thinking it was my fault,” Ms Tamura said.
A recent survey by Japan’s Kyodo news agency found that female politicians and leaders are more likely to face gender biases and sexual harassment than their male counterparts.
The government has been regularly criticised for not doing enough to encourage more women to get into politics – with some arguing that the male-dominated cabinet and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are part of the problem.
In 2021 the LDP – who’ve been in power almost uninterrupted since 1955 – proposed allowing five female lawmakers to join its board meetings as observers – under the condition that they stay silent during meetings.
The proposal came after sexist comments made by the former Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori – who briefly served as prime minister at the start of the millennium. He was quoted as saying women talk too much and that meetings with many female board directors would “take a lot of time”. He later apologised.
“The LDP is responsible for the status of the gender inequality in Japan,” Ms Kishimoto said. “They have not prioritised the issue. The political will is just not there. This is very embarrassing.”
Ms Kishimoto doesn’t just blame the ruling party, but also the voters who have kept them in power for so long.
She says despite all the difficulties she’s still optimistic that one day Japan could have a female leader. “I don’t know if it’ll be in the near future,” she said.
“But I’m hopeful. We can’t get any worse. The only way is up and ahead,” she laughs.
What does Trump’s indictment mean for American politics?
Donald Trump is expected to become the first former or sitting US president to face criminal charges.
Donald Trump is expected to appear before a New York court on Tuesday, where he will become the first former or sitting US president to face criminal charges.
The charges have not been revealed yet, but a grand jury has been investigating a payment of $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an extramarital affair with Trump which he has always denied.
Media reports in the US suggest the former president may face other charges, too.
Trump denies all wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a witch-hunt by the Democrats, whom he accuses of trying to derail his 2024 election campaign.
Presenter: Laura Kyle
Adolfo Franco – Republican strategist and chief counsel to the chairman of the International Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives
Claire Finkelstein – Law and philosophy professor at the University of Pennsylvania and faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law
Rina Shah – Founder of Rilax Strategies, a political and public affairs communications firm
Ivanka Trump breaks silence on her dad’s indictment
Ivanka Trump breaks silence on her dad’s indictment
Presidential historian Tim Naftali discusses Ivanka Trump’s statement about her dad, former President Donald Trump, being indicted by a Manhattan grand jury.
Ivanka Trump has broken her silence on her father’s criminal indictment to say that she is “pained” for both her parent and her country.
Donald Trump’s daughter finally released a brief statement on Instagram just before midday ET on Friday – around 18 hours after a grand jury voted to indict the former president on criminal charges over the 2016 hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
“I love my father and I love my country. Today I am pained for both,” she wrote.
“I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern.”
On Thursday 30 March, a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Mr Trump on criminal charges over hush money payments to adult film star Ms Daniels days just before the 2016 presidential election.
The unprecedented indictment makes Mr Trump the first current or former president to ever face criminal charges in the history of the US.
It is currently unclear what the charges are but multiple reports say that Mr Trump is facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud.
Court officials have confirmed that he will appear in court in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon for his arraignment.
The indictment is said to have caught Mr Trump off guard after it was announced that the grand jury was taking a weeks-long break from hearing the case.
As soon as the news broke, Mr Trump’s adult sons Eric Trump and Don Trump Jr leaped into action raging against what they described as “third world prosecutorial misconduct”.
“This is third world prosecutorial misconduct,” tweeted Eric. “It is the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.”
Meanwhile, Don Jr branded it a “weaponization of our Govt against their political enemies” on Twitter before railing against the indictment during a somewhat emotional appearance on his show Triggered with Don Jr that night.
“Let’s be clear, folks, this is like communist-level s***,” he said. “This is stuff that would make Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, it would make them blush.”
He later shared a tweet from another social media user which sought to claim that his father’s indictment was an attempt to distract from the school shooting which left six victims dead in Nashville earlier this week.
While Don and Eric both raged about the indictment, Ivanka – who worked as a top adviser in Mr Trump’s White House – was silent on the matter for many more hours.
Manhattan prosecutors have been investigating whether Mr Trump falsified the Trump Organization’s business records when his former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen made the payment of $130,0000 to Ms Daniels.
Prosecutors claim that the money was used to silence Ms Daniels about an alleged affair she had with Mr Trump.
Mr Trump has long denied having an affair with the adult film star.
Mr Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Cohen was convicted of tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations related to the payments to Ms Daniels. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Pakistan’s political heavyweights take their street battles to the courts — as a weary nation looks on
Pakistan’s leaders and the man who wants to unseat them are engaged in high stakes political brinkmanship that is taking a toll on the collective psyche of the nation’s people – and many are exhausted.
As their politicians argue, citizens struggle with soaring inflation against an uptick in militant attacks. In major cities, residents regularly navigate police roadblocks for protests, school closures and internet shutdowns. And in the northern province of Kyber Pakhtunkhua, three people died last Thursday in a stampede to get subsidized bags of flour.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government is attempting to unlock billions of dollars in emergency financing from the International Monetary Fund, a process delayed since last November – but some people aren’t prepared to wait.
Government statistics show a surge in the number of citizens leaving Pakistan – up almost threefold in 2022 compared to previous years.
Zainab Abidi, who works in tech, left Pakistan for Dubai last August and says her “main worry” is for her family, who she “really hopes can get out.”
Others, like Fauzia Rashif, a cleaner in Islamabad, don’t have the option to leave.
“I don’t have a passport, I’ve never left the country. These days the biggest concern is the constant expenses. I worry about my children but there really isn’t anywhere to go,” she said.
Experts say the pessimism about the Pakistan’s stability in the months ahead is not misplaced, as the country’s political heavyweights tussle for power.
Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations, Britain and the United States, told CNN the “prolonged and intense nature” of the confrontation between Pakistan’s government and former Prime Minister Imran Khan is “unprecedented.”
She said the only way forward is for “all sides to step aside and call for a ceasefire through interlocutors to agree on a consensus for simultaneous provincial and national elections.”
That solution, however, is not something that can easily be achieved as both sides fight in the street – and in court.
How did we get here?
The current wave of chaos can be traced back to April 2022, when Khan, a former cricket star who founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI), was ousted from office in a vote of no confidence on grounds of mismanaging the economy.
In response, Khan rallied his supporters in street protests, accusing the current government of colluding with the military and the United States in a conspiracy to remove him from office, claims both parties rejected.
Khan survived an assassination attempt last November during one of his rallies and has since been beset with legal troubles spearheaded by Sharif’s government. As of March 21, Khan was facing six charges, while 84 have been registered against other PTI workers, according to the central police office in Lahore. However, Khan’s party claims that 127 cases have been lodged against him alone.
Earlier this month, attempts to arrest Khan from his residence in Lahore led to violent clashes with the police and Khan’s supporters camped outside. Khan told CNN the government was attempting to arrest him as a “pretext for them to get out of (holding) elections,” a claim rejected by information minister Mariyam Aurangzeb.
Days later, more clashes erupted when police arrived with bulldozers to clear the supporters from Khan’s home, and again outside Islamabad High Court as the former leader finally complied with an order to attend court.
Interior minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that the police operation intended to “clear no-go areas” and “arrest miscreants hiding inside.” Human Rights Watch accused the police of using “abusive measures” and urged all sides to show restraint.
What is happening with elections?
General elections are due to be held this October, but Khan has been pushing for elections months earlier. However, it’s not even clear if he’ll be able to contest the vote due to the push by the government to disqualify him.
Disqualification will mean that Khan can’t hold any parliamentary position, become involved in election campaigns, or lead his party.
Khan has already been disqualified by Pakistan’s Election Commission for making “false statements” regarding the sale of gifts sent to him while in office – an offense under the country’s constitution – but it will take the courts to cement the disqualification into law. A court date is still to be set for that hearing.
Yasser Kureshi, author of the book “Seeking Supremacy: The Pursuit of Judicial Power in Pakistan,” says Khan’s “ability to mobilize support” will “help raise the costs of any attempt to disqualify him.”
However, he said if Pakistan’s powerful military – led by government-appointed former spy chief Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir, who Khan once fired – is determined to expel the former leader, it could pressure the judiciary to rule him out, no matter how much it inflames Khan’s supporters.
“If the military leadership is united against Khan and committed to disqualifying and purging him, the pressure from the military may compel enough judges to relent and disqualify Khan, should that be the consensus within the military top brass,” said Kureshi, a lecturer in South Asian Studies at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Qaiser Imam, president of the Islamabad Bar Association, disagreed with this statement. “Political parties, to save their politics, link themselves with certain narratives or perceptions which generally are never found correct,” he told CNN.
The Pakistan Armed Forces has often been blamed for meddling in the democratic process to maintain its authority, but in a statement last November outgoing army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said a decision had been made in February that the military would not interfere in politics.
The army has previously rejected Khan’s claims it had anything to do with purported attempts on his life.
Some say the government’s recent actions have added to perceptions that it’s trying to stack the legal cards against Khan.
This week, the government introduced a bill to limit the power of the Chief Justice, who had agreed to hear a claim by the PTI against a move to delay an important by-election in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populated province, and one considered a marker for the party most likely to win national leadership.
It had been due to be held on April 30, but Pakistan’s Election Commission pushed it to October 8, citing security concerns.
In a briefing to international media last Friday, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the security and economic situation had deteriorated in the past two months, and it was more cost effective to hold the vote at the same time as the general election.
The decision was immediately condemned by Khan as an act that “violated the constitution.”
Lodhi, the former ambassador, has criticized the delay, tweeting that a security threat had been “invoked to justify whatever is politically expedient.”
The PTI took the matter to the Supreme Court, where it’s still being heard.
Some have accused Khan of also trying to manipulate the court system in his favor.
Kureshi said the judiciary is fragmented, allowing Khan to “venue-shop” – taking charges against him from one judge to seek a more sympathetic hearing with another.
“At this time it seems that even the Supreme Court itself is split on how to deal with Imran Khan, which helps him maneuver within this fragmented institutional landscape,” Kureshi said.
What happens now?
The increasing acrimony at the highest level of politics shows no sign of ending – and in fact could prolong the uncertainty for Pakistan’s long-suffering people.
Khan is adamant the current government wants him dead without offering much tangible evidence. And in comments made to local media on Sunday, Sanaullah said the government once viewed Khan as a political opponent but now sees him as the “enemy.”
“(Khan) has in a straightforward way brought this country’s politics to a point where either only one can exist, either him or us. If we feel our existence is being negated, then we will go to whatever lengths needed and, in that situation, we will not see what is democratic or undemocratic, what is right and what is wrong,” he added.
PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said the comments were “offensive” and threatened to take legal action. “The statement … goes against all norms of civilized world,” he said.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the director the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, says Khan’s popularity gave him “the power to cripple the country,” should he push supporters to show their anger in the street.
However, Mehboob said Khan’s repeated attempts to call for an early election could create even more instability by provoking the government to impose article 232 of the constitution.
That would place the country under a state of emergency, delaying elections for a year.
And that would not be welcomed by a weary public already tired of living in uncertain times.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the former army chief.
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