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Girls & Women

Japan May Require Senior Officials to Attend Sexual Harassment Training

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#MeToo, the rallying cry against sexual harassment that has made waves in Hollywood, has crossed the Pacific Ocean and made its way to Japan, where the government is now considering mandatory sexual harassment training for senior officials.

In April, Vice Minister of Finance Junichi Fukuda resigned after he was accused of sexually harassing a female journalist. Though he initially denied the allegations, a ministry investigation validated the claims and Fukuda was penalized, the Agence France-Presse reported.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

Fukuda’s case was just one of several high-profile sexual misconduct cases involving Japanese government officials that emerged as the #MeToo movement empowered women around the world to break their silence.

According to a recent survey, dozens of women in Japanese media have experienced sexual harassment on the job, and in about one-third of these instances, the perpetrator was a government official, law enforcement officer, or a member of parliament.

"Female reporters have had to suffer silently, despite being subjected to humiliating and mortifying treatment," the Japanese newspaper employees union said in a statement in April. "Many female reporters have had to put up with sexually abusive language, having hands wrapped around their hips and shoulders, but being able only to take those hands and silently place them on their owner's knees, for fear of undermining the relationship between those that they report on and their organisations."

Now, the Japanese government is taking action to prevent future incidents. A cabinet official told the AFP that the government is in the process of creating a plan to combat workplace sexual harassment that includes requiring senior officials to attend anti-sexual harassment training. Completion of these trainings may be required in order to be considered for promotion, some Japanese media reported.

Read more: The UN Wants to Create a Treaty to End Workplace Harassment

The #MeToo movement was slow to catch on in Japan, according to the Guardian. As in many other parts of the world, social attitudes and cultural beliefs discouraged women from speaking out for fear of victim-shaming or derailing their careers.

However, making work environments more equitable and eliminating workplace sexual harassment is in the interests of both women and the government, as increasing women’s participation in the workforce is a major component Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to revive Japan’s economy.

While mandatory anti-sexual harassment sessions for government officials could help to curb workplace sexual misconduct and discrimination, Japan has a long way to go to close the gender gap. 

The East Asian nation has struggled to establish gender parity in both politics and the workplace and ranks 114th out of 144 countries, trailing behind countries like Malaysia, India, and Sri Lanka, in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 “Global Gender Gap Report.”

A final version of the plan to deal with sexual harassment by government officials is expected to be presented later this month, according to the AFP.

Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and the elimination of discrimination. You can take action here to call for the strengthening of laws preventing sexual violence.