Tokyo (Reuters) - Japan’s finance ministry said on Friday it would dock the pay of its top finance bureaucrat for sexual harassment and apologized for betraying public trust in a scandal that has further damaged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ratings.
Administrative Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda resigned last week after a weekly magazine said he had harassed several female reporters, prompting the opposition to call for Finance Minister Taro Aso’s resignation and boycott parliamentary business.
Fukuda had denied the allegations, just one of a series amid suspected high-level cronyism and cover-ups that have raised doubts about how long Abe can stay in power, but the ministry said last week it would continue to investigate him through an external law firm.
Deputy Vice Finance Minister Koji Yano told a news conference on Friday that the ministry acknowledged Fukuda had sexually harassed a reporter and that his pay would be cut by 20 percent for six months.
“This sort of action is unacceptable since it damages the dignity and human rights of the victim,” Yano said.
“That a bureaucrat responsible for maintaining the overall discipline of the ministry caused this sort of problem has damaged trust in the government, caused confusion in parliament and is extremely regrettable,” he added.
The finance ministry said in a statement that while Fukuda still denied the sexual harassment allegations, he admitted he had met the reporter.
Japan has had few reported “#MeToo” cases about sexual harassment involving public figures. Victims are often reluctant to speak out for fear of being blamed. The identity of the female reporters in Fukuda’s case has not been disclosed.
Abe has made his “Womenomics” programs to mobilize women in the workforce part of his policies to boost growth, but big gender gaps persist at companies and in politics.
Reporting by Elaine Lies and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Nick Macfie