• Kyodo

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The Osaka District Court on Tuesday rejected a group’s claim that the presentation of a sumo prize by Osaka’s male vice governor on behalf of Gov. Fusae Ota, who is not allowed to enter the ring because she is a woman, encourages sexism.

The court also rejected the group’s demand that Ota return money the Osaka Prefectural Government spent on the prize, given to the winners of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka in 2003 and 2004, because the governor was unable to present it.

“The action does not actually encourage sexism, though there is room for discussion of the governor’s responsibility as it is not a positive step toward realizing a society based on gender equality,” presiding Judge Fumio Hirotani said in handing down the ruling. Hirotani, however, said there is “an element of sexism” in allowing only men to enter the sumo ring to present the award.

The judge also said the governor’s decision to ask a vice governor to present the prize has a “certain rationality” because she has been trying to promote sports.

“The sumo tournament is a good opportunity to promote Osaka, and I will continue to award the winner,” Ota said after the ruling. “I will also continue to ask the Japan Sumo Association to make an appropriate move that reflects present-day gender equality.”

Women traditionally have been prohibited from entering the “dohyo,” as the ring is known, but the sumo association said it is planning to conduct surveys to gauge public opinion on the issue.

The activist group, which works to promote child education, had asked the court to order Ota to return about 1.26 million yen spent on the sumo award in 2003 and 2004.

According to the ruling, the prefectural government decided to award the governor’s prize to the winners of the 2003 and 2004 tournaments because the sumo association asks it to do so each year.

The association, however, refused to let Ota enter the ring to give the prize to the winners of the 2003 and 2004 tournaments because she is woman, and the vice governor had to do it instead.

The sumo association has prevented Ota from presenting the prize since she was elected in February 2000.

The prefectural audit board submitted a nonbinding recommendation to Ota last year urging her not to award the prize at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, now held in Osaka, citing sexual inequality. But Ota has not followed the recommendation, saying she does not want to cause trouble.

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