Advancing Women's Rights
New Komeito was a major agent in the enactment of a 2000 law that prohibits stalking activities against women in 2000, resulting in 90 percent of stalkers discontinuing their harassment after being reported to the police. We were also instrumental in the passing of a law on domestic violence protecting women and their children from spousal abuse. The two laws enabled courts in Japan to issue restraining orders against perpetrators for the first time. Under another New Komeito initiative, the nine major railroad companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area adopted women-only cars to protect them from molesters.
Placement Service for Women
A new placement service specifically designed to meet the needs of women raising children began to be offered at 12 locations nationwide from March 2006. New Komeito was a key lobby for such a service as part of a larger initiative to combat Japan's alarming birthrate decline, which has been exacerbated by a large number of women being forced to choose between families and careers. Applicants are provided with personalized placement consultations, and children can accompany their mothers while using the service.
Maternity Leave Subsidy
From fiscal 2006, the government is paying a subsidy of 1 million yen to small- and medium-sized enterprises with less than 100 workers for every female employee allowed to take extended maternity leave for her firstborn child. Smaller firms have been reluctant to adopt maternity leave programs as the temporary loss of labor adversely impacts business. New Komeito first proposed the initiative in March 2005, and it was adopted within 12 months. We also raised statutory maternity pay entitled to women to 50 percent of pre-leave wages, which goes into effect from October 2007, up from 40 percent 2001.
An active supporter of outpatient clinics that cater specifically to the needs of women, New Komeito conducted public petition drives and Diet hearings to establish a pilot program and expand it on a nationwide basis. As a result, while there were only three women-only outpatient clinics in the country in 2002, there were more than 100 such clinics as of 2007 nationwide, and the count is expanding.
At the persistent lobbying of New Komeito, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has prioritized the procurement and installation of mammography units at hospitals nationwide since 2006 in an effort to reduce fatalities from breast cancer, the leading cause of death among Japanese women. In 2004, we succeeded in lowering the age in which women are eligible for the procedure under the national health insurance program from 50 to 40 years of age. As of 2007, moreover, patients can send their mammograms by Internet to other radiologists for a second opinion. Mammography is a component of a larger National Cancer Initiative proposed by our party, which also calls for priority training of medical technicians and specialists, and the establishment of cancer treatment centers at the local community level.
Fertility Program Extended
Our party was not only responsible for establishing an in vitro fertility program for married women, we also extended the duration of treatment from two to five years. The program pays for one-third of the cost of treatment, and the income ceiling for married couples eligible to receive government assistance raised from 6.5 million yen annually to 7.3 million yen in fiscal 2007.