About 15,000 women surrounded the Diet building in Tokyo on Saturday to protest against proposed new security legislation that would bolster the role and scope of the Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.
The women were dressed in red, colors which international protest movements have adopted to signify “anger” and “rebellion”—with their origins in a 1975 protest by Icelandic women that came to be known as the Red Stocking Movement.
The rally denounced Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who is trying to force through the Diet a set of controversial bills making the changes.
The bills are a pet project of Abe, who says Japan can no longer shy away from its responsibility to help safeguard regional stability, and must step out from under the security umbrella provided by the United States.
The draft legislation would broaden the remit of Japan’s well-equipped and well-trained armed forces. It would allow them to go into battle to protect allies—so-called “collective defense”—something which is banned by a strict reading of Japan’s pacifist constitution.
Opponents of the bills accuse Abe of trying to move the country away from pacifism, while three scholars summoned to the Diet testified this month that the bills are unconstitutional.
The legislation, which would overhaul 10 security-related laws and create a new one, would also pave the way for the military to deploy abroad on non-combat missions such as disaster relief and U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Revisions include removing geographical constraints on logistical support for friendly forces in “situations that would significantly affect Japan’s security”.
They also say Japan can defend allies “in situations where there is a clear risk that Japan’s existence is threatened and its people’s rights… are compromised through an attack on a country which has a close relationship with Japan”.
Reiko Yukawa, a music critic, who attended Saturday’s rally, said: “We plan to hold regular protests until the legislation is scrapped.”