Japan plans anti-sexual harassment training for officials

Japan is drawing up plans requiring all senior government bureaucrats to undergo anti-sexual harassment training, an official said on Thursday, after a scandal involving a top finance ministry executive broke out.

“We are now preparing such a plan,” a cabinet office official told AFP, adding that a final version will be presented at a meeting headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this month.

The move comes after the top bureaucrat at the Finance Ministry quit in April following allegations he sexually harassed female reporters.

He denied the claims but a subsequent investigation found the allegations credible, and docked his retirement benefits.

The finance ministry was slammed for its poor handling of the case, with Finance Minister Taro Aso initially dismissing the allegations, and officials later calling on victims to come forward publicly.

Earlier this week, a foreign ministry official in charge of Russian affairs was suspended for nine months, with Japanese media widely reporting he had been accused of sexual harassment.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono has declined to clarify why the bureaucrat was suspended, citing the privacy of “the victim.”

The training plan could be approved as early as next week at the meeting called “Base for creating a society where all women shine,” that Abe will head, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported.

How many officials will be required to undergo the training remains unclear though some media reported it may become mandatory for bureaucrats seeking promotion.

Abe has made increasing female participation in the workforce a key plank of his economic policies as Japan struggles with a labor shortage.

But the country ranked bottom among G7 countries in the World Economic Forum’s latest “Global Gender Gap Report”, coming 114th worldwide.

It scored poorly on women’s participation in the economy and political involvement.

The #MeToo movement has sometimes seemed to have skipped Japan though some observers said the outcry over the finance ministry case suggested a reckoning could now happen in the country, too.

The sexual harassment scandal at the finance ministry has proved an additional headache for Abe, whose government is already under fire over two cronyism scandals – one of which involves the scrubbing of documents by the finance ministry.   /kga

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