Women's Rights and Japanese Constitution: Beate Sirota Gordon's Legacy and Implications Worldwide 23/3
NWEC National Women's Education Center of Japan
Mills College, Oakland California
Human rights of women
SDG5 – Gender Equality
Building Peace through Women’s Education (2019)
On Christmas Eve, 1945, Beate Sirota Gordon was the first civilian woman to arrive in post-war Japan. Assigned to the Political Affairs staff, she worked for Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers ) Douglas MacArthur's occupation army as a translator. In addition to Japanese, she was fluent in English, German, French, and Russian.
When the U.S. began drafting a new constitution for Japan in February 1946. Sirota was enlisted to help and was assigned to the subcommittee dedicated to writing the section of the constitution devoted to civil rights. She was one of only two women in the larger group, the other being economist Eleanor Hadley. Sirota played an integral role, drafting the language regarding legal equality between men and women in Japan, including Articles 14 and 24 on Equal Rights and Women's Civil Rights. Article 14 states, in part: "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". Article 24 includes:
Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. 2) With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.
These additions to the constitution were vital to women's rights in Japan. "Japanese women were historically treated like chattel; they were property to be bought and sold on a whim," Gordon said in 1999.
Not directly other then equal rights should be written in every constitution of countries in the world. This other NFA's can use these articles to push for equal rights.