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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 December 19 - 2019 January 8  > Don't lag behind the world in addressing workplace harassment
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2018 December 19 - 2019 January 8 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Don't lag behind the world in addressing workplace harassment

January 7, 2019

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The International Labor Organization (ILO) celebrates its centennial anniversary this year. In 1919 after the end of WWI, the ILO was established, declaring that "universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice". Since then, the organization has been playing a significant role in setting international standards to improve working conditions for all workers of the world. In the coming general assembly in June, the ILO will adopt a treaty "ending violence and harassment in the world of work". The planned adoption has been supported by the growing #MeToo movement and international calls for the eradication of workplace harassment.

In Japan, victims of sexual harassment can consult with prefectural labor bureaus based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. However, due to the absence of legal grounds defining acts of sexual harassment as illegal, these institutions can neither recognize findings of fact nor order companies or sexual harassment perpetrators to apologize to or compensate victims. The cases which can go through administrative relief procedures such as providing "assistance" or "mediation" to help reach a settlement between parties concerned accounts for only about 2% of the total yearly consultations of about 7,000. In addition, because these procedures are based on mutual concessions, they even press victims to make a compromise. The amount of settlement money is so miniscule that it does not help to discourage and prevent companies or perpetrators from committing acts of sexual harassment again.

Japan does not have a domestic law stipulating prohibited acts of harassment, allowing the workplace atmosphere to continue to belittle sexual harassment. Therefore, many victims become emotionally and physically ill and are forced to take a temporary leave of absence or quit their job. In contrast, most perpetrators continue to work without any penalty or punishment.

Among developed countries, only Japan and two other states do not have a legal stipulation prohibiting sexual harassment, according to the World Bank. Out of 189 ILO conventions, Japan ratified only 49. Japan is a country where workers' rights are not properly protected. The attitude that the Japanese government has been taking toward establishing a law banning sexual harassment clearly reveals that Japan is lagging far behind the rest of the world in defending fundamental human rights.

The Japanese Communist Party has been demanding that an anti-harassment law be passed that will meet ILO standards, that the system to help victims be improved, and that an independent organization to meet the needs of victims be established.

As it is a right of workers to work in a harassment-free workplace, the Japanese government must change its present attitude.
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