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Girls & Women

Japanese Women Are Finally Allowed to Enter the Bullfighting Ring

The fight for global women’s equality scored another victory last week, as Japanese bullfighting organizers lifted a ban on women in the sport. Yuki Araki, a 44-year-old bull owner, became the first woman allowed to enter the ring when she led her animal into the arena after an opening day match in the city of Yamakoshi, according to AFP.

For centuries, women weren’t allowed to enter the bullfighting ring in Japan. The space, which is ritually purified with salt and sake before each match, is considered by fans to be sacred, and women were thought to be too “impure” to enter, according to the BBC. Japanese bullfighting officials decided to begin allowing women in the ring this year in an attempt to modernize the traditional sport.

"Equality for men and women is a trend of the times," Katsushi Seki, an official with the Yamakoshi bullfighting organisation, told AFP. "By opening the ring to women, we hope this traditional bullfighting will continue far into the future.”

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Japanese bullfighting, known as “tōgyū,” is very different from its more widely known Spanish counterpart. Instead of a human bullfighter facing off against an animal, two bulls lock horns and try to push each other out of the ring in a sumo-like contest of strength, while coaches stand in the ring with their bulls to guide and encourage them.

Unlike in Spanish bullfighting, bloodshed is not a formal part of tōgyū. However, bulls occasionally gouge one another with their horns, at which point the match is ended.

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Women’s empowerment has become a subject of discussion in Japan after multiple high-profile instances of gender discrimination and sexual misconduct earlier this year. The resurgent #MeToo movement took hold in Japan after a model accused a famous photographer of exploitation and two top government officials resigned over sexual harassment scandals.

Read More: Iranian Women Are Wearing Fake Beards to Sneak into Soccer Stadiums

Last month, a referee stirred controversy after ordering several women to leave a sumo wrestling ring when they had rushed in to offer first aid to a politician who had collapsed while giving a speech. Similar to tōgyū, sumo wrestling rings are considered pure, sacred spaces where women are still barred from entering.

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Global Citizen campaigns in support of women’s rights and equal representation. You can take action here to call on world leaders to empower women and girls everywhere.