It’s bad that there has to be an organization about maternity harassment. Matahara, as it is known in Japan, is the abuse — both mental and physical — of pregnant and post-pregnant women in the workforce.

This organization is called Matahara Net and began with the harassment of founder Sayaka Osakabe. Osakabe believes that there are four different types of maternity harassment: imposing traditional gender-based values, bullying, “power harassment” and “forced out.” The Japanese Trade Union Confederation released a survey in 2015 stating that 20.9 percent of women in Japan have experienced such harassment. Not only is this detrimental to women’s mental health, it also can cause immense stress that results in miscarriages and premature births.

Still, there is no legal definition of this abuse and no laws fighting it. Sixty percent of women in Japan leave their job once they get pregnant with their first child, and 40 percent return to their job after maternity leave. This furthers the gender equality gap that is already very prevalent in the Japanese workforce.

Women have said “I felt like pregnancy was a bad thing” and “If I knew this was going to happen I would never have gotten pregnant.” With Japan’s shrinking birthrate, it can’t afford women not having children because of the treatment they receive at work. Women also have to follow three checkpoints to work during pregnancy. First is reporting the pregnancy, second is taking leave and third is returning to work. Even when this is all done, women receive further harassment by losing their status and therefore being demoted.

Japan needs to define maternity harassment as a form of abuse and create laws to protect women from this. Once these laws are put into place, there needs to be a team set in place specifically to follow up on harassment reports.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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