National

Abe-led panel mandates anti-sexual harassment training for senior officials but shelves talks on law to penalize harassers

Kyodo

The government on Tuesday decided to require senior officials to undergo training aimed at preventing sexual harassment and make such courses mandatory for promotion following a string of revelations of inappropriate behavior involving high-ranking bureaucrats.

Such programs are currently offered to newly promoted staff in supervisory roles, but a government panel headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to expand their scope to include higher-ranking officials.

Seiko Noda, minister in charge of women’s empowerment, had proposed the introduction of legislation to penalize those responsible for sexual harassment, but the government panel shelved discussions on that matter.

Officials’ attendance at the courses will be checked by the Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs, effectively making participation a precondition for promotion.

Among other measures, the government will also set up contact points at each ministry and agency for accepting complaints and inquiries from the private sector, as a recent sexual harassment case involved a woman who worked for a private company.

The government will also require the National Personnel Authority to provide third-party consultation services to ensure independence from ministries and agencies.

The move comes after Junichi Fukuda resigned in April as vice finance minister, the top bureaucratic post in the ministry, for having made sexually suggestive comments to a female TV reporter. Although he has denied the allegation, the ministry acknowledged the harassment in a probe it conducted into the matter.

Earlier in April, the health ministry took disciplinary measures against Yusuke Fukuda, the chief of the Health Service Bureau, for having sent emails regarded as constituting sexual harassment to a female subordinate.

The Foreign Ministry also suspended Tadaatsu Mori, director of the Russian division, from work for nine months in June. The ministry declined to disclose the reason for the disciplinary action, but government sources said Mori is alleged to have sexually harassed a woman within the ministry.