Japan's labour minister says it's 'necessary' for women to wear heels at work despite mass backlash over the policy many are calling outdated
- A Japanese minister defended workplace policies requiring women to wear high heels as "necessary and reasonable," despite growing support of a petition to abolish the practice.
- The minister spoke out after an online petition created by 32-year-old Japanese actress Yumi Ishikawa, urging legislators to ban the practice, went viral this week.
- Japan struggles with gender parity, though the country is experiencing gradual pushback against the promotion of traditional gender roles for men and women.
A Japanese minister defended workplace policies requiring women to wear high heels as "necessary and reasonable," despite growing support of a petition to ban the practice.
"It's generally accepted by society that (wearing high heels) is necessary and reasonable in workplaces," Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto told lawmakers on Wednesday, according to Kyodo News Agency.
According to Kyodo, Nemoto was responding to opposition lawmaker Kanako Otsuji who called the dress code "outdated" and said the women-only policy amounted to "harassment".
"It's abuse of power if a worker with a hurt foot is forced (to wear high heels)," Otsuji said.
The workplace custom gained widespread backlash this week after 32-year-old Japanese actress Yumi Ishikawa created an online petition calling for the policy to be banned. As of Thursday local time, the petition has reached over 20,000 signatures.
Ishikawa wrote on the petition homepage that she was inspired to speak out after being forced to stand in heels for hours at her workplace. The petition rallies behind the hashtag #KuToo, a nod to the popular #MeToo movement and a play on the Japanese words for shoes (kutsu) and pain (kutsuu).
"Ideally we'd like a new law, as I believe this is an urgent issue," Ishikawa said during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday, after submitting the petition to the labor ministry. "I'd like social perceptions to change so that women wearing formal flat shoes becomes standard."
Japan still struggles with gender parity, though the country is experiencing gradual pushback against the promotion of traditional gender roles for men and women.
According to the World Economic Forum's 2018 Global Gender Gap report, which measures global progress towards gender equality, Japan ranks 110 out of 149 countries, a small improvement from previous years. And recent surveys show that more young women are choosing to get married young, reflecting a societal shift from the 1980s when women were pressured to choose between either marriage or a career.
But some lawmakers appear to maintain more traditional views of gender roles and societal norms, a hurdle for those pushing for more progressive legislation. Several lawmakers have spoken out against people who choose careers over children, and last year a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party Executive said that young children need to be raised in an "environment in which they can stay with their mothers" and that the idea of fathers being primary care-givers is an "unwelcome" idea.
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