Japanese schools dress code violation of human rights

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Japan is a country well known for its strict school uniforms rules. Not only do students have to wear certain clothes, but they also have to adhere to rules relating to hairstyles and even underwear. Even though this has been a tradition for many years, not everyone is happy with these rules. Legal steps are now underway.


White underwear part of the dress code

Last year, research was conducted into the dress codes wielded by Japanese schools. The results showed that 58% of schools demand that students wear white underwear. Underwear should not be distracting. The same study reported that some schools regularly check the color of students’ underwear. Female students, usually in the age group twelve to fifteen, have to show their bra strap by pulling it up through the collar.

Japanese schools dress code violation of human rights
Kyoto (Japan)| Photo: Stephanie Hau – Unsplash

Japanese schools dress code violation of human rights

So no clothes need to be removed, and the check is done by a female teacher. Still, the Japanese Bar Association thinks this is going too far: “Ordering someone to show their underwear violates their human rights. It is not acceptable just because it is a child who is being instructed.”

The organization has written a report calling for a reform of school rules. Besides criticism regarding white underwear, the rules around dress codes and hairstyles are also being discussed. Amongst other things, the fact that these rules are gender specific is being questioned. It is also strange that students are limited in their use of social media to protect their privacy. But at the same time, students must wear a name tag. So, their names are clearly visible on their journey to and from school. The Bar Association wants the rules to be revised. According to the lawyers, the rules must be rational and consider the rights of children. Also, the association believes that children should be involved in the revision, so the rules are easily understandable for them.

Japanese schools are not the easiest

This month, a spokesperson for Japan’s Ministry of Education called on schools to heed the call. “The schools that have rules for white underwear generally introduced them a long time ago. As attitudes toward individual rights change, schools need to rethink their policies. ”Still, the question is, will the schools revise their policy. In February, a student sued her school over the dress code requiring black hair. The girl was repeatedly told to dye her dark brown hair black. As most Japanese have black hair, they believed that this was her natural hair color.

Since dyed hair is banned at school, it is pretty ironic that she was asked to dye her hair black. When she refused, she was told she was no longer welcome and removed from the roster.The judge ruled that a school can ban colored hair, as the rule has a legitimate and educational purpose. The school was only fined 330,000 Yen (2,700 euro) for removing the student from the roster. As progressive as the Bar Associations’ idea is, it seems Japan is not yet ready for a new policy. Because as long as judges believe that the rules have an educational purpose, there is little reason for the schools to amend them. I am curious how many schools will respond to the call.



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