In a similar fashion to many western countries, the political context of Japan has been transformed since the 1975 UN World Conference on Women, which eventually led to the establishment of the Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society in Japan in 1999. The Basic Law sets out a series of general guidelines across every field of society, including education. This trajectory policy research study targets gender issues in Japanese higher education and follows the development of the Basic Law and, in particular, how it has been interpreted by bureaucrats and implemented within the field of higher education. This feminist policy research study examines Japanese power relationships within the field of gender and identifies gender discourses embedded within Japanese gender equity policy documents. The study documents the experiences of, and strategies used by, Japanese feminists in relation to gender equity policies in education. Drawing on critical feminist theory and feminist critical discourse theory, the study explores the relationship between gender discourses and social practices and analyses how unequal gender relations have been sustained through the implementation of Japanese gender equity policy. Feminist critical policy analysis and feminist critical discourse analysis have been used to examine data collected through interviews with key players, including policy makers and policy administrators from the national government and higher education institutions offering teacher education courses. The study also scrutinises the minutes of government meetings, and other relevant policy documents. The study highlights the struggles between policy makers in the government and bureaucracy, and feminist educators working for change. Following an anti-feminist backlash, feminist discourses in the original policy documents were weakened or marginalised in revisions, ultimately weakening the impact of the Basic Law in the higher education institutions. The following four key findings are presented within the research: 1) tracking of the original feminist teachers’ movement that existed just prior to the development of the Basic Law in 1999; 2) the formation of the Basic Law, and how the policy resulted in a weakening of the main tenets of women’s policy from a feminist perspective; 3) the problematic manner in which the Basic Law was interpreted at the bureaucratic level; and 4) the limited impact of the Basic Law on higher education and the strategies and struggles of feminist scholars in reaction to this law
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