Sexual Harassment Grey Zone: What Goes on in the ‘Workplace’ of Japan’s Politicians

Dr Emma Dalton1

1RMIT, , Australia

Regarding the representation of women in politics, yearly World Economic Forum and Inter-parliamentary Union surveys place Japan amongst developing countries, such as Malawi, India and Sierra Leone. There are many cultural and structural barriers to increased female political participation, and, in recent years, it has become increasingly clear around the world that sexual harassment is one of those barriers. Japan’s Equal Employment Opportunity Law stipulates that the prevention of workplace sexual harassment is the responsibility of the employer. Elected officials are not employed by anyone and thus measures to combat sexual harassment in politics are arbitrary in nature. Based on interviews with thirty Japanese politicians from rural and urban Japan and a case study of a legislative council in western Tokyo, this paper examines how different legislative assemblies and individual assembly members approach the issue. I argue that sexual harassment is both a cause and result of gender inequality in Japanese politics, and that the first step in countering it is increased numbers of women on councils. This paper also considers the gap between regional and urban legislative councils and finds that women in rural communities face higher hurdles than their urban counterparts.


Emma Dalton is a Japanese lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University. She has lectured at universities in Australia, New Zealand and Japan for over a decade in the areas of Japanese language and Japanese and Asian Studies. Her research interests include the relationship between women and the Japanese state, and especially the position of women in politics. She publishes widely for academic, student and media audiences.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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