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Japan: Sexual harassment at bōnenkai, inept handling, a suicide

At last year’s bōnenkai for the General Affairs Department of the Hokkaido Shimbun’s Hakodate branch on Dec. 8, a 40-year-old nurse who worked part-time at the paper was reportedly sexually harassed by a vice-chief of the department and his subordinate. Two months later, in the early morning of Feb. 21, the woman died of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a fire at her home. A day before her death, she sent documents criticizing the paper’s insensitive and unsympathetic handling of the case to 13 organizations, including eight newspapers and TV stations in Hokkaido. ... In May, the family filed a criminal complaint against the two employees for violating a Hokkaido anti-nuisance ordinance and violent conduct. On June 26 the Hokkaido Shimbun finally answered her family, who soon after the death had asked the paper to undertake a thorough investigation into whether the woman had been sexually harassed at the party. The result of the probe: “No evidence of sexual harassment has been found.” According to the accusations, the vice-chief, who is married, harassed the victim, including touching her body and making obscene suggestions. The subordinate, also married, is alleged to have abused her verbally. For instance, he was said to have asked, “Why don’t you become the vice-chief’s mistress?”

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