Around 60 percent of prefectural assemblywomen across Japan have experienced sexual harassment, either by their male colleagues or voters, according to a Kyodo News survey.
Among 147 respondents to the survey conducted in February and March covering 261 assembly members, 87 respondents, or 59.2 percent, said they have had unpleasant experiences in their political activities due to “words and deeds stemming from misogyny,” while the other 60, or 40.8 percent, said they have had no such experiences.
Asked about who had harassed them, with multiple answers allowed, 60 of the 87 assemblywomen cited male lawmakers in the same assembly, 46 pointed to voters, 16 to “other lawmakers,” including Diet members, and 14 to local government officials.
Asked about specific incidents, one cited a male assembly member heckling a female colleague, telling her to “ask questions after giving birth to a child.”
Some respondents said that at hotels during study tours, male colleagues intruded into their room and forcibly kissed them.
Some respondents said that voters touched their breasts and buttocks at parties, and that they were forced to pour drinks for them in exchange for their votes.
Asked about what measures are needed to prevent such harassment, many said they have to “keep a resolute attitude,” or “increase the number of assemblywomen to have a greater voice.”
Some called for adding anti-harassment provisions to the rules governing assemblies and conducting awareness seminars.
Sexism targeted at female politicians was highlighted in June 2014 when Ayaka Shiomura, a Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member, was heckled by some of her male colleagues when she was asking questions about maternity support measures.
One of them, Akihiro Suzuki, later came forward to admit to admit he had yelled, “You should get married first,” and offered an apology.
Only 9.8 percent of the prefectural assembly seats across Japan were held by women as of the end of 2015, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.