Over 50% of assemblywomen in Japan have been sexually harassed, survey suggests


Staff Writer

In yet another sign of deep-rooted sexism in Japan, more than 50 percent of local assemblywomen who responded to a recent survey said they had been sexually harassed while on duty.

The Alliance of Feminist Representatives (AFER), a nationwide group of female politicians that advocates for the introduction of gender quotas for elected officials, said 52 percent of people who responded to its survey on sexual discrimination indicated they had been targeted by sexual harassment at least once.

The activist group polled local assemblywomen across the country last summer in the wake of an incident in June 2014, in which Ayaka Shiomura, a 35-year-old Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member, suffered sexist heckling during an assembly session. The group released a brochure on the results on Aug. 1, after following up with the respondents.

Of the 600 female assembly members across Japan contacted by the group, 143 completed the written survey. Seventy-four said they had been sexually harassed, while 67 said they had been offended by their male counterparts.

Fifty respondents said they had been harassed up to five times — while 13, or about 20 percent of the respondents, could not recall the exact number of times they were harassed because they occurred daily.

“Though (only) 52 percent of the respondents said they had been abused, many others who initially said they had never been harassed revealed in further communication that some of the remarks and practices they encountered might be deemed abusive,” AFER’s Taeko Koiso told the Japan Times.

“I believe that the actual percentage of assemblywomen who have suffered sexual abuse is much higher,” said Koiso, who is a member of the Chigasaki Municipal Assembly in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Koiso pointed out that although sexual harassment is banned by law, with regulations requiring employers to take measures against it, problematic practices are pervasive in politics, which remains an overwhelmingly male-dominated field in Japan.

“Because Diet members and prefectural- and municipal-level assembly members are elected by society, I believe they mirror society,” Koiso said.

She lamented that, unlike in the corporate world, where employees are often trained on sexual harassment, assembly members rarely have such opportunities, as “they are considered to have met all the conditions to represent society.”

Sixteen of the female respondents also said they had been subjected to verbal offenses or disdain, while eight reported being targeted by indecent remarks during assembly sessions.

Some respondents said they had been neglected or forced to buy cigarettes for their male coworkers, while others had endured taunts such as: “Why don’t you strip?” or “You must get excited by being groped.”

Fourteen respondents recounted having unwanted physical contact with male coworkers.

“We hope these findings will help people become more aware of sexual harassment and discrimination against women, and that they will be used in human rights training for government officials,” Koiso said. “I also hope this will help increase the awareness of citizens, whose job it is to keep an eye on lawmakers they have elected.”

  • primalxconvoy

    “Japan; Getting it wrong since 1892.”

    • in comparison 90 percent of usa women

      have been sexually harassed

      • DrHanibalLecter

        I assume you know that for a fact, because you yourself have made sure of it?

        If you could read more carefully and were able to grasp what that article actually says, then you would know, that 50% ADMITTED to having been harassed. (Most of) the other 50% did not even dare to do that.
        And I choose the word “admitted”, because it is the sad truth, in Japan, even more than anywhere else, it is always the victim’s fault.
        Here, children learn in school that bullying is just so much fun and so enjoyable.

        Go back to eating mayonnaise

      • Spring then summer

        Wo… Don’t chock on your bread.

      • DrHanibalLecter

        I try not too…
        I bake my own sourdough bread…

      • Yo Han

        Yes, and the remaining 10 percent of USA-women are complaining so much that all men next to them are ignoring their presence totally wherever they go.

  • Hendrix

    Apart from muslim countries Japan has got to be one of the most sexist and mysogynistic in the world… it really amazes me how they get away with it.

  • Kriton

    Not just Assembly women! Harassment is an everyday occurrence for many, many women in Japan.

    • Spring then summer

      It’s the same everywhere you go…

    • Ahojanen

      To be fair, in other parts of Japanese society such as professional one, there are written codes of conduct, counter-measures and guideline about harassment including severe penalty for violation. How well these measures work might be a debating point, but things do happen everywhere in a varying degree, not merely in Japan.

      Japanese politics especially in local levels is an outdated community where much needs to be done. But again, it is more exception than rule in Japan.

  • Spring then summer

    There should be a system of designated gentleman. That way women no who to avoid and who to go to for help right away.

  • shyguy1990

    Are there no punitive measures to prevent further harassment?

  • Paul Martin

    All Japanese women are sexually harassed from an early age because their bosses and workmates demand they join them for drinks after work where they get inebriated and sexually assaulted !

    This is a well established fact of life in Japan where bosses are considered father figures and NO is unacceptable !

    In fact women in Japan have always been regarded by males as SEX OBJECTS to be expploited!

    Anyone DENYING this will have to EAT their words when the women concur !

  • Macarons & Sakura Tea

    Preach the sad truth.

  • Yo Han

    A rather unknown ‘Alliance of Feminist Representatives’ made a survey – how can you be surprised that the result is that Japanese men are gropers or rapists?

    Interesting to read that 457 women out of 600 did not even respond to this suggestive questionnaire.

    This strange club – how much public money is it receiving to exist? – advocates for the introduction of gender quotas for elected officials? Is this not gender discrimination to exclude certain people from elections solely because of their male gender? It sounds like a form of sexual harassment to me.

  • Stewart Dorward

    This is one (though important) example of the abuse of power that pervades Japanese culture and society.

  • Martin Herndl

    I would love to see citations / links to the original survey findings or at least the local group