A Japanese minister on Wednesday sparked controversy with his statement that it is "socially accepted" to force women to wear high heels at workplaces.
For many years now, Japanese offices required women to wear high heels.
The remark came when Takumi Nemoto, the Health, Labour and Welfare Minister of Japan, was asked to comment on a #KuToo petition filed by a group of women who urged the government to ban workplaces from requiring female job seekers and employees to wear high heels, CNN reported.
"It is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate," Nemoto said. "Whether the employers' requirement to wear high heels is an abuse of power or not depends on whether the requirement goes beyond the social understanding of what is necessary and appropriate," he was quoted as saying.
Till June 4, more than 19,000 people in Japan had signed a petition, submitted to the Labour Ministry on Tuesday, banning office dress codes that forced women to wear high heels to work.
The petition was started by Tokyo actress, writer, and feminist Yumi Ishikawa after her tweets about being forced to wear heels at work gained over 67,000 likes and almost 30,000 retweets.
Watch: Japanese women take a stand against high heels
"I'm hoping to get rid of the custom that someday women have to wear heels and pumps at work. When I was a specialist, I stayed at a hotel for a month; it was a part-time job, but my feet were already useless with pumps, and I stopped specialising. Why do I have to work with my leg hurt?" Ishikawa tweeted in January.
Ishikawa coined the hashtag #KuToo in her tweets, which is a play on two Japanese words - "kutsu" meaning shoes and "kutsuu" meaning pain. The word also has a reference to the global #MeToo movement which has seen women push back against sexual assault and harassment.
Campaigners say wearing high heels are seen as near-obligatory when job hunting or working at many Japanese companies.
Some even describe high heels as akin to modern foot-binding while others have urged a broader loosening of dress codes in the Japanese workplace, where business suits for men are ubiquitous.
An official at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare's equal employment opportunity division had earlier said that it had no plans to change the laws around whether employers could require staff to wear certain clothes or shoes. There are currently no laws that restrict companies from regulating employees' work wear, the official added.
A #KuToo petition filed by a group of women urges the government to ban workplaces from requiring female employees to wear high heels