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Japanese Women Fight Sex Discrimination

Historically, Japanese women have been paid significantly less than their male counterparts and were expected to be subservient towards their bosses. Many were hired because of their "eagerness and fresh faces," and were expected to quit upon marriage.

Although a new gender equality law was instituted in Japan four months ago, social attitudes haven't changed much in response. Nevertheless, lawyer Katsuko Terasawa noted that "Full-time Japanese women now have the law, and a raised consciousness, and increasing courage to bring a case to court. It is not so possible any more to have a woman doing important work and not getting paid what she should."

But the corporate world is much slower in altering its attitudes towards women in the workplace. Due to the sagging economy, may jobs on the "low rungs of the ladder" -- those usually held by women -- are being made temporary or part-time positions. The secretary of the Tokyo Womenís Union, Keiko Tani, stated, "The situation is getting worse. We don't have the luxury to fight for the same salary as a man when our very job is in danger."

One of the most significant problems that Japanese women are facing is the traditional idea that women should stay at home and raise a family while men are "the warriors for the company." "We have to abolish the principle that men are responsible for work and women are responsible for the family. Work and family matters both ought to be shared equally," commented Kiyokawa.

Media Resources: The Washington Post - August 10, 1999



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