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Japan and #MeToo: how women reject sexual harassment



Japan is considered an advanced nation, its citizens respectful, polite and regular. But the country has a dark side: over 70% of Japanese women have been sexually harassed at least once in their life. The problem is so great that the Tokyo subway offers a car only for women during peak hours to protect it from abuse.

Authors are rarely prosecuted: since the obstacles to be pursued in Japan are high, few cases end up in court. Victims who publish their story must come to terms with hatred.

The journalist Shiori Ito tried in vain in 2015 to take into account her alleged rapist. Ito denounced the man in private – and he was so hostile that he eventually had to leave the country. (Read the story of Shiori Ito here.)

Three Japanese women explain why their culture discriminates against women and how they try to change them.

Minori Kitahara, 48, owner of a sex shop for women

in private

Minori Kitahara: "Small steps, but something is happening"

"When I was ten, I drove with my father in an elevator and was a man standing behind me, and when the door closed the stranger started touching me from behind, I didn't say anything, didn't I wanted my father Day of the booty.

This is how girls are educated in Japan: we should be friendly and kind. Men are taught to stand above women. This discrimination has a system. For example, at Tokyo Medical School, admission tests have been falsified for years, so that fewer women study there.

I was lucky to have a model: my grandmother was a strong woman and ran her hotel. Everyone in the store had respect for her. The older I grew, the more I wanted to be like her.

In 1996 I founded my first company: an agency that programmed websites. At least half of our orders at that time were porn sites. It happened that I came across a feminist sex shop in the United States. I had never seen anything like it.

Sexuality is very masculine in Japan: stores are full of things that are forbidden in other countries. For example, some toys remind the genitals of children. I wanted to do something different, a room where women feel at ease.

For several years I run a sex shop for women in Tokyo. There are not only toys, but there are also lessons. For example, how to establish yourself as a woman in the profession.

Harassment is a big problem in Japan, but it's not talked about. Many don't dare to use the #MeToo hashtag. That's why I asked for a demonstration in the spring. There were several hundred women. Since then, the "flower demonstration" – it is called this because every woman wears a flower – takes place every month. We are becoming more and more. They are small steps, but something is happening. "

Rika Shiiki, 21, marketing entrepreneur

in private

Rika Shiiki: "Professionally, it hurt me to make public what happened to me"

"Two years ago, I had a dinner appointment with a client, he went to the bar to order for me and I wasn't old enough to drink alcohol, so I asked him to bring me some juice.

The drink he gave me had a strange taste. About half an hour later, everything began to spin suddenly. The environment blurred in front of my eyes.

I'm scared. I wanted to cancel the appointment and go home. But my client kept saying: Stay still. Why do you want to go already?

I took a taxi anyway. Later, I searched google for my symptoms and found something called rape drug online. I think the man dumped something in the drink to make my head spin.

I wrote about my experience on Twitter. It was important for me to warn other women. The reactions were terrible. I was hoping for support, instead I received thousands of hate comments. I was accused of lying. Even today I receive such news.

In Japan they say: silence means beauty. Men here love a certain type of woman: calm, friendly, without independence. That is how it should remain.

Many women behave just as men expect. We do not have a culture of brotherhood, we do not support each other. I was disappointed and shocked that so few women admitted it.

Today I am rarely invited to talk to customers. Larger companies keep their distance. Professionally, it hurt me to make public what happened to me.

But at least now it's a debate about sexual aggression. Men learn that it is not right to harass a woman. This should be normal. But it's not the one in Japan. "

Kanoko Kamata, 41, activist

in private

Kanoko Kamata: "We can't wait any longer"

Instead, I have a job, which is unusual in Japan, where many women here dream of getting married soon and giving up their lives, and have not learned otherwise: Japanese women have been doing it for generations.

Anyone who works in Japan is practically a slave to his company. You must be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many women do not want it and therefore prefer to become housewives. This is understandable on the one hand. On the other hand, it leads to very few female executives.

This hierarchy favors abuse. Furthermore, there is the Japanese image of women: it is our job to make people happy and not burdened by negatives. Even in the working world there is this expectation. I know brilliant women who try never to act aggressively in their work, so that no man feels uncomfortable. Similarly, they also respond to attacks: smile away, hold on.

I thought so too. I studied chemistry and then worked in the import industry. At thirty years I decided to go to Harvard and take a Masters in Politics. At that time, I thought: this is the last chance before getting married and having children. Then I saw that my American classmates were studying although they were married and had children. This opened my eyes.

Today I lead seminars where I practice with women to fight. They have to overturn a table. I want to encourage them to be sure of themselves, to show them that it's okay to get angry. Only those who dare, also represent his rights. Japan must change. We can not wait anymore. "

This article is part of the Global Society project, for which our journalists report from four continents. The project is long-term and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What is the Global Society project?

Under the title Global Society, journalists turn out Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe Report on inequalities in a globalized world, socio-political challenges and sustainable development. Reportages, analyzes, photo galleries, videos and podcasts appear in the Good king News Department of Politics. The project is long-term and will be supported for three years by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

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Yes. The editorial content is created without the influence of the Gates Foundation.

Do other media have similar projects?

Yes. Major European media outlets such as "The Guardian" and "El País" have created similar sections on their news pages with "Global Development" or "Planeta Futuro" with the support of the Gates Foundation.

Were there already similar projects on Good king News ONLINE?

Good king News ONLINE has already carried out two projects in recent years with the European Journalism Center (EJC) and the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: The "Expedition The Day After tomorrow" on Global Sustainability Goals and the journalistic refugee project "The New Arrivals "Numerous award-winning multimedia reports have emerged on migration and flight issues.

Where can I find all the publications on the Global Society?

The pieces are available on Good king News ONLINE in the Global Company topic page.