A survey of women working for Japanese newspapers and TV networks has found 150 cases of alleged sexual misconduct reported by 35 women, about one-third of it involving lawmakers, government officials and law enforcers, a researcher said on Monday.
Osaka International University professor Mayumi Taniguchi, a gender studies expert, said the survey was prompted by a recent and widely publicized case of alleged sexual mistreatment of a journalist by a senior Japanese Ministry of Finance official.
She said 40 percent of the cases reportedly occurred at the journalists’ workplaces and the remainder involved news sources and others.
The April 21 to April 30 survey was conducted shortly after the No. 2 finance ministry official resigned after being accused of making sexually suggestive remarks to a reporter, which he denied.
Repeated remarks by Japanese Minister of Finance Taro Aso and other top officials that the reporter might have tried to trap the man infuriated women’s groups.
The survey found the alleged harassers tended to choose victims who were more vulnerable and likely to be intimidated.
In one case, Taniguchi said, a female reporter in her 30s at a national newspaper reported that the police chief at the location where she was assigned repeatedly made lewd remarks to her and that fellow reporters were aware, but tolerated them.
She said a younger reporter at another newspaper developed depression and quit her job.
She said that in another case, a national newspaper reporter also in her 30s was forcibly kissed and had her breasts touched by a source in a local election she was covering who was supposed to give her vote counts.
She called a male reporter from another newspaper for help.
Taniguchi said the survey shows some women are beginning to speak out in a sign of a growing #MeToo movement in Japan, but that others are hesitant to do so because of pressure from supervisors or fear of losing their sources.
Gender equality in Japan has lagged behind most advanced countries and victims of sexual misconduct can be criticized for speaking out.
Many of the women surveyed said they participated in the hope of preventing younger reporters from suffering similar mistreatment.
“I believe this is their sisterhood, and this is what the #MeToo movement is about,” Taniguchi said, adding that more efforts are still needed. “I hope everyone takes sexual harassment and #MeToo movement more seriously and tackles the problems.”
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