Japan activists push to halt sexual harassment of job-seeking students

FILE PHOTO: Japanese college students scrum as they shout slogans during a pep rally held to boost their morale ahead of their job hunt, at an outdoor theatre in Tokyo, Japan, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese activists on Monday called for drastic steps by the government, companies and universities to stamp out sexual harassment of job-hunting students, a problem they said lurks in the shadows because victims fear speaking out.

Although the labor ministry drafted guidelines in October to prevent power harassment in workplaces, it said only that such measures were “desirable” for students and other non-employees.

Despite some diversification in recruitment, many Japanese firms tend to hire new graduates, who begin the job hunt while still at university.

Many feel too vulnerable to denounce harassment, members of Safe Campus Youth Network (SAY), a volunteer group of professors and students at six Tokyo universities, told a news conference.

“Today, harassment against job-hunting students, especially sexual harassment against female students, is a serious issue that could interfere with life choices on their career path,” the group said in a statement demanding action.

“These cases are almost never reported and employees can say anything they like because students are the weak ones,” said Rhea Endo, a 19-year-old student at Tokyo’s International Christian University.

“People suffer in silence and offenders are not punished.”

Harassment runs the gamut from forced sex and inappropriate touching to verbal harassment, such as asking the job-seeker what kind of sexual relations she has, the activists said.

The guidelines against power harassment are expected to be finalised this month after a period of public comment, but have come under fire from some experts who say the definition of power harassment is too narrow.

Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Clarence Fernandez