A Japanese minister has said it is “necessary” for companies to enforce dress codes that require women to wear high heels at work.
Takumi Nemoto, Japan’s health and labour minister, defended the controversial practice.
“It is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate,” Mr Nemoto said.
He reportedly made the comments at a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
One lawmaker, Kanako Otsuji, suggested such rules were “outdated” during the same session, Kyodo News reports.
Mr Nemoto was asked to comment on a campaign spearheaded by actor and writer Yumi Ishikawa, who is calling for discriminatory workplace dress codes to be scrapped.
She launched a petition after being made to wear high heels while working at a funeral parlour.
Her petition has gained traction on social media, receiving thousands of signatures and international support.
It was submitted to Japan’s labour ministry on Tuesday with 18,800 signatures, according to Kyodo News.
Supporters have been tweeting the petition alongside the hashtag #KuToo in solidarity with her cause, mirroring the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse.
The slogan plays on the Japanese words for shoes “kutsu” and pain “kutsuu”.
Campaigners say that wearing high heels is seen as obligatory when applying for jobs.
“I hope this campaign will change the social norm so that it won’t be considered to be bad manners when women wear flat shoes like men,” Ms Ishikawa said.
Petitions against high heels in the workplace have attracted support elsewhere, too.
Nicola Thorp set up a petition calling for UK dress code laws to be changed after she was asked to wear high heels at finance company PwC.
She was hired as a temporary member of staff and refused to comply with the dress code. Following coverage in the media, outsourcing firm Portico announced that female colleagues could “wear plain flat shoes” with immediate effect.
In 2017, a Canadian province scrapped the dress code which requires female employees to wear high heels.