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Thursday, April 17, 2003
Lawyers bid to curb sex harassment
OSAKA -- The Osaka Bar Association plans to adopt new internal rules designed to crack down on sexual harassment.
The code of conduct, expected to be formalized by the end of the week, is in response to a growing number of complaints involving its members.
The association says that over the past few years it has received numerous sexual harassment complaints from female employees at law offices.
Association members involved in handling cases of this kind at government offices and private firms decided late last year that a new set of rules governing lawyers was also required.
Final approval of the proposed standards compiled by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which oversees the various local bar associations, was expected to be granted by Friday.
"Lawyers are not exceptions when it comes to committing sexual harassment," Kenichi Yamaguchi, vice chairman of the bar association, said in a statement released Tuesday. "We have a responsibility to take the lead in creating a sexual harassment-free environment."
Under the new standards, all 2,600 members of the association will be handed a detailed list of what constitutes sexual harassment, along with a list of steps that may be taken to create a working environment that discourages this behavior.
While welcoming the new rules, some women who work in local law offices said that they may only have a limited effect. "I think most women who work in law offices would feel more comfortable if there were neutral third-party observers hearing sexual harassment complaints in addition to association member lawyers," said Yuko Nagata, who works for a law firm in Osaka's Kita Ward.