fashion

Japanese minister: High heels for women at work are 'occupationally necessary and appropriate'

Updated 6th June 2019
This photo taken on April 7, 2016 shows the Japan High Heel Association managing director "Madame" Yumiko giving a lesson on high heels in Tokyo.
Credit: TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Japanese minister: High heels for women at work are 'occupationally necessary and appropriate'
Written by Yoko WakatsukiBen Westcott, CNN
A Japanese government minister has sparked controversy by saying that it is "socially accepted" that women be forced to wear high heels in the workplace.
For many years it has been required in many Japanese offices for women to wear high heels.
But a recent backlash has thrown the practice into question, with more than 19,000 people in Japan signing a petition to ban the requirement.
Speaking about the petition at a lower house committee session on Wednesday, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto demurred on whether demanding women to wear high heels constituted an "abuse of power."
"It is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate," he said.
"Whether the employers' requirement to wear high heels is an abuse of power or not depends on whether the requirement goes beyond the social understanding of what is necessary and appropriate."
The petition was started by Tokyo artist, writer and feminist Yumi Ishikawa after comments she made on Twitter went viral across the country.
"I'm hoping to get rid of the custom that someday women have to wear heels and pumps at work," she wrote in January.
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Ishikawa coined the hashtag #KuToo in her tweets, which is a play on two Japanese words -- "kutsu," meaning shoes, and "kutsuu," meaning pain.
It is also a reference to the global #MeToo movement which has seen women push back against sexual assault and harassment.
An official at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's equal employment opportunity division said earlier that it had no plans to change the laws around whether employers could require staff to wear certain clothes or shoes.
There are currently no laws that restrict companies from regulating employees' work wear. Japan currently ranks bottom among the G7 countries for gender equality.