Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Finance Ministry higher-ups get schooling in sex harassment

Finance Ministry higher-ups get schooling in sex harassment
10 May

Following the recent resignation of a top bureaucrat in a high-profile case, dozens of high-ranking Finance Ministry officials were admonished to prevent sexual harassment at a hastily called workshop on May 9.

Shigeaki Okamoto, director-general of the Budget Bureau of the ministry, as well as Mitsuru Ota, director-general of the Financial Bureau of the ministry, were among about 80 attendees of the classroom session.

The workshop follows the resignation of Junichi Fukuda, former administrative vice finance minister, after a magazine ran allegations that he had sexually harassed a female reporter, and later released an audio recording of a suspected incident.

Lawyer Takako Sugaya, who served as the workshop lecturer, was critical of the Finance Ministry’s handling and investigation of the allegations.

“The recognition of the Finance Ministry about sexual harassment significantly differs from that of the general public,” she said. “There is a humongous gap.”

Sugaya pointed out a series of actions the ministry took for the widely reported scandal that she felt were questionable and strange.

The ministry “asked” the female journalist to come forward in a letter distributed to media organizations as part of the investigation.

“They dealt with (the victim’s allegations) as if it were gossip as evidenced by their pretentious attitude such as, ‘If you truly want to accuse him, produce the evidence.’ ”

She added, “I would like you to strongly recognize that the incident involves an abuse of human rights and is serious misconduct, as well as a potential criminal case.

“I also would like you to understand by taking a sense of ownership about what to do to prevent such harassment from occurring again, what is harassment and what to do when harassment has occurred.”

The lecture, which was held behind closed doors, lasted for 90 minutes.

Sugaya indicated that it is inappropriate as a measure to prevent a recurrence for male officials to avoid having one-on-one meals with women. Moreover, officials should maintain an awareness that they are always in the public eye even though they believe it is only a private occasion, a ministry official said.

This was the first time that such a large number of bureaucrats were schooled on sexual harassment together although they had attended briefings to prevent such behavior when entering the ministry and other times in smaller groups.

Almost all the attendees were men, but about 20 women who are in charge of consultation over sexual harassment also were in attendance.

The ministry is considering continuing to hold lectures for a wider range of staff as well as collect information from female officials.


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