Women’s rights groups slam board of education

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Women’s rights groups lodged a protest Wednesday with the Tokyo metropolitan board of education, demanding that it retract its August notice on the use of the term “gender-free” at schools under its jurisdiction.

Under the notice, issued Aug. 26, the board of education told schools under its jurisdiction to be careful in the use of the term in classrooms, claiming the gender-free concept is sometimes misused as a way to ignore the fact that men and women are different.

The notice came after parents complained that teachers ignored their students’ gender differences by having both boys and girls undergo medical checkups together, according to metropolitan officials.

But Chieko Akaishi, a member of FEMIN Women’s Democratic Club, one of the 11 organizations that lodged the protest, questioned why the board took what she termed an oppressive measure toward schools.

“The board should make efforts to resolve any misunderstandings (schools may have regarding) the term,” Akaishi said during a news conference at the metropolitan government office.

Rumiko Nishino, codirector of the citizens’ group Violence Against Women in War-Network Japan, said the term gender-free does not deny the differences of the sexes but instead aims to abolish discrimination against women.