The sexist taunting of a female politician during a recent session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly drew rapid condemnation from some quarters, but little disbelief.

The problem is long-running and many victims tend to accept it and suffer in silence, some assembly members say.

Mitsuko Nishizaki, secretary-general of the Tokyo Seikatsusha Network political party, told The Japan Times that sneering, mockery and even overt sexual harassment is routine and often goes unreported.