15 elite female judoka have courageously stood up to the All Japan Judo Federation to call for reform after being physically and mentally abused by their Olympics coach last year. It’s clear the abuse was the result of a pervasive culture of sexism that is also reflected in the Federation’s leadership: the Federation’s board consists of 26 men and no women.
Nobuyoshi Tsujiguchi, the lawyer representing the 15 judoka, spoke at a press conference, said that his clients “long for a more democratic and open world of judo. Not a single one of the Federation’s board members are women. Viewed from a global standard, it’s absolutely ridiculous.” He called for women to be appointed to the Federation’s board.
The International Olympic Committee put forth a goal in 2005 that all sports association’s board members be composed of 20% women. Japan lags far behind on women representation in leadership positions overall, and the world of martial arts has been particularly resistant to change.
In March, the International Olympics Committee will visit Tokyo as part of the city’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics. We ask that the Federation listen to these 15 brave judoka and engage in fundamental reforms before this visit. An important step is to appoint women to the board to meet this global 20% standard.
With the media focused intently on the Federation’s actions, now is the time for us to push the Federation to fundamentally change its culture and approach so that the abuse these women suffered is never repeated.
Only then will Japan be truly worthy of hosting the 2020 Olympics.
Japanese women’s judo coach resigns (February 1, 2013)
Japanese female judo athletes make complaint to Olympic committee after coach 'slapped and hit them with bamboo swords' in run-up to London 2012 (February 4, 2013)
Abused judoka won’t stop at one resignation, lawyer warns (February 5, 2013)