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Japanese women post record election wins in gender equality push

But conservative streak in ruling party, rural areas throws up hurdles to change

Eri Arfiya, 34, of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was among a record number of female winners in Japan's April elections (Photo by Mayumi Tsumita)

TOKYO -- Japan's local elections last month brought signs that the nation's male-dominated political scene may be taking gradual steps toward gender equality. A record 21% of candidates for city assemblies were female -- welcome progress for women's rights activists as the country gets set to host the Group of Seven gender equality ministerial in June.

But female representation within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party remained low, at 10% of candidates in city-level elections, and gender parity in Japanese politics remains a long way off. The country lags its G-7 partners on female political representation, with the lowest ratio of women in parliament (10% in the lower house) of all seven nations.

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