• Kyodo

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A U.S. government report on human rights violations addressed the issue of so-called maternity harassment in Japan on Thursday, while expressing concern about South Korea’s indictment last year of a Japanese journalist over reporting on the country’s president.

The 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, compiled by the State Department, also blasted “numerous outrages and killings” by Islamic State militants as well as the suppression of free speech and crackdowns on activists in countries such as China, Russia and Iran.

The annual report said inequality in employment in Japan remained a “society-wide problem,” citing lower wages for women and a small proportion of women holding managerial positions.

The report cited a 2014 ruling in Japan by the Supreme Court that backed a woman who claimed workplace maternity harassment, saying her supporters hailed it as a landmark decision.

The supporters alleged that Japanese companies often pressured pregnant workers to quit, but faced few blowbacks when regulators looked into complaints, the report added.

In March this year the State Department gave a Japanese woman, Sayaka Osakabe, an International Women of Courage Award along with nine other women from around the world. She was commended for fighting against unfair treatment in the workplace of women who are pregnant or rearing children.

Regarding South Korea, the human rights report said the country’s “strict defamation laws limited freedom of the press,” adding that the United Nations has expressed concern about the use of defamation suits to penalize those who criticize the government.

In October 2014 South Korean prosecutors indicted the then Seoul bureau chief of The Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese conservative daily, for allegedly defaming President Park Geun-hye in a column.

Turning its eye to Japan, the report also said domestic violence against women, sexual harassment against women and bullying within the Self-Defense Forces continued to be problems in Japanese society.