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Over 60% of women face enforcement of heels at work, study finds

Actress and writer Yumi Ishikawa speaks at a meeting in the Diet on June 11, 2019. Ishikawa has submitted a petition to the labor ministry calling for a ban on dress codes that force women to wear high heels at work. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- More than 60 percent of women in Japan have experienced the enforcement rules calling for the wearing of heels in the workplace or while job-hunting, or have witnessed others being forced to wear them, according to a survey conducted by a Japanese business website, which also reported the findings Tuesday to a Diet discussion.

    The survey was conducted by Business Insider Japan, which questioned 207 individuals about workplace dress codes, including 184 women. More than 80 percent of the female respondents said they had suffered health problems as a result of wearing heels, while a quarter was informed during seminars on workplace behavior that wearing them was considered basic etiquette.

    Tuesday's discussions were held between a group fighting against the enforcement of rules on wearing heels in the workplace, members of the labor ministry and other organizations as well as lawmakers. They exchanged viewpoints on confronting and eliminating gender-based workplace discrimination.

    "I believe we've realized that some of the social conventions we take for granted are wrong," Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan member Kanako Otsuji said.

    "Let's raise our voices together. Change will not occur if we remain silent," she continued.

    Tuesday's talks come after Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto said he would not support a drive to ban dress codes that force women to wear high heels at work, citing how the shoes were "generally accepted by society" as "necessary and reasonable."

    He made the comments in reaction to a petition with over 18,800 signatures that was submitted to his ministry on June 3. It calls for the government to ban companies from requiring women to wear high heels in the workplace, citing health and other issues.

    The group is part of the #KuToo movement - an amalgam of "#MeToo," and the Japanese words for shoes, "kutsu," and pain, "kutsuu."

    A member of the International Labor Organization echoed Otsuji's remarks, saying, "The reason why women have been told to wear heels despite their suffering is because men, who have been at the top of management for decades, were the ones who established normal social conventions."

    "If something is wrong with the norms that we follow, then the law is there to change it," he said.

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