SNA (Tokyo) — We were told that the 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) marked the “dawn” of a new age for female workers in Japan. No more could employers blithely set up special marry-and-leave retirement systems for their female employees, a practice that had been considered perfectly legal. Several amendments boosted the reach of the law and wording revisions extended protection from gender discrimination and sexual harassment to male workers.
But, in many ways, Japan remains stuck in its old patriarchic ways. Bucking an international trend, Japan still prohibits same-sex marriage and post-nuptial couples must choose one surname, usually the husband’s (unless one partner is a foreign national). And the law retains the word “gender,” leaving unclear what if any protection is extended to LGBTQ workers.