In response to the #kutoo movement which is fighting to seek a government ban against an office reform demanding women to wear high heels at the workplace, Health Minister Takumi Nemoto said that heels-on-the-job may be needed because of customary social expectations in some workplaces.
"It is socially accepted as something that falls with the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate," told Nemoto to a parliamentary hearing.
KuToo, a play on words from the Japanese word "kutsu" - meaning shoes - and "kutsuu" - meaning "pain" and derived from the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse was launched by actress and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa to ban the practice which made wearing heels mandatory in workplaces.
She said on Twitter in January she was required to wear 5-7 centimeter (2-3 inch) heels at work, causing her feet to hurt.
“As I realised that so many people face the same problem, I decided to launch the campaign.”
She started a campaign and quickly garnered support with nearly 20,000 people signing a petition that was submitted to the labour ministry on Tuesday.
Ishikawa told reporters after meeting labour ministry officials: “Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.”
The campaign according to Yumi Ishikawa was started as an effort to combat the prevalent misogyny in Japan as many Japanese companies may not explicitly require employees to wear high heels but several women did so because of tradition and social expectations.
"Shoes are so every day," she said. "People can more directly see the issues of people's dignity and rights, and so shoes may lead to a better world."
Although Takumi Nemoto also stated how it was considered a form of “power harassment” if employers required female workers who had been injured to wear high heels, his earlier statement denouncing the cause of the campaign caused a stir on the social media bringing the campaign more into the limelight.
“It seems like men don’t really understand that wearing high heels can be painful and lead to injuries. But even if women aren’t hurt, I’d like such expectations to be considered power harassment,” Ishikawa told reporters.
Yumi Ishikawa said she hoped to win over fashion designers to make more comfortable footwear that was acceptable as formal wear, adding that she saw the #KuToo movement as a way to raise awareness about sexism.
(With ANI inputs)