A group of university students and professors on Monday called for drastic steps by the government, companies and universities to stamp out sexual harassment of job-hunting students, a problem they say lurks in the shadows because victims fear to speak out.
Although the labor ministry drafted guidelines in October to prevent workplace power harassment, it only said that such measures were “desirable” for students and other nonemployees.
Despite some diversification in recruiting, many firms tend to hire new graduates who begin job hunting while still attending university.
Many feel too vulnerable to denounce the harassment, members of volunteer group Safe Campus Youth Network, also known as SAY, told a news conference. The group consists of professors and students at six Tokyo universities.
“Today, harassment against job-hunting students, especially sexual harassment against female students, is a serious issue that could interfere with life choices on their career path,” the group said in a statement demanding action.
“These cases are almost never reported and employees can say anything they like because students are the weak ones,” said Rhea Endo, a 19-year-old student at Tokyo’s International Christian University.
“People suffer in silence and offenders are not punished.”
The harassment includes actions ranging from forced sex and inappropriate touching to verbal harassment, such as asking the job-seeker what kind of sexual relations she has, the group said.
A female student who went through the job-hunting process this year said at the same news conference that when she dined with company employees, she was frequently asked such questions as whether she had a boyfriend and about her relationship with her partner.
“I felt indignant over the fact that such inappropriate teasing could be forgiven by calling it a joke,” the student recalled.
The group also pointed out that apps for students to meet with alumni to seek advice have been used for dating and matchmaking.
Such services have become breeding grounds for sexual harassment and sexual assault cases, with some students being asked for sex in return for help with landing a job, the group said.
“The same protection should be given to employees and students seeking jobs,” Mari Miura, a professor at Sophia University, said of the guidelines at the news conference.
The guidelines are expected to be finalized this month after a period of public comment, but have come under fire from some experts who say the definition of power harassment is too narrow.