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Another executive with Japan’s top refiner is fired for sexual harassment as #MeToo awareness grows

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February 21, 2024
By The Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — The head of a renewable energy subsidiary of Japan’s top refiner, Eneos Holdings, has been fired for sexual harassment, the companies announced Wednesday, as awareness of the #MeToo movement grows in the country.

Japan Renewable Energy Corp. said in a statement it dismissed chairperson Shigeru Yasu after an internal investigation confirmed sexual harassment at a social gathering in December. The company launched the probe after a whistleblower reported the case.

JRE offered a “deep apology” to the victim and its stakeholders, saying such an act is “not acceptable.”

Yasu is the third executive with the Eneos group to be fired over sexual harassment in two years. Late last year, Eneos Holdings’ then-president Takeshi Saito was dismissed for getting drunk and hugging a woman. In 2022, Eneos chairperson Tsutomu Sugimori resigned after sexually harassing a woman serving customers at a restaurant.

The new statement said the company has repeatedly reminded employees of “the importance of the respect of human rights and ensuring compliance” through company training and other means, but it will review the content of education programs and study more effective measures.

Change is coming slowly in Japan, which consistently ranks near the bottom in international gender equality surveys and where sexual misconduct complaints are often disregarded. Victims tend to face criticism for speaking up.

Last month, former prime minister and ruling party kingmaker Taro Aso was criticized over what were considered insulting and sexist comments about the foreign minister’s appearance and age. The 83-old Aso called Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa an “obasan,” a term usually used to make fun of middle-aged or older women.

Kamikawa brushed off the comment, saying she appreciates any comment and that she only focuses on her duty as Japan’s top diplomat. Her subdued reaction prompted some experts to lament that in Japan, even women in top jobs are still expected to not speak up.

Aso later apologized and retracted the comment.

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