Rina Bovrisse, an ex-Prada Employee in Japan, is accused by the fashion giant after exposing the sex discrimination and harassment culture in the workplace.
She has prepared the following testimony for a Tokyo court which would hand down a ruling in this Autumn.
TO: Tokyo Court
PRADA CASE FINAL TESTIMONY
By Rina Bovrisse
August 1, 2013, California, U.S.A.
The PRADA CASE is the first fashion case in history to be heard by the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights and the UN CEDAW (Convention of Elimination of Discrimination Against Women). The case started as an individual gender discrimination and sexual harassment case against a multi-national enterprise—PRADA Group—at Tokyo Court in 2010. The PRADA CASE was globally recognized and created worldwide awareness of the unfair treatment Japanese women face every day in the workplace.
1. The Global Recognition
In 2012, Japan was ranked 101st out of 135 countries measured by World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2012 in gender equality. Japan has the 3rd largest economy of the world and 42% of the nation’s workers are females—yet why is it acceptable for working women to be treated so poorly? It is imperative for Japan to receive strong global support and recognition on the current gender inequality issues. This great movement requires action expressing disapproval of the discrimination and harassment women in Japan face while trying to make a living.
2. The Objective
The objective of the PRADA CASE has been clearly identified and testified as gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the workplace in Japan and in the fashion industry since the labor complaint case petition in 2009. In 2010, after being reviewed by the UN CEDAW representatives, a statement “This case is against the UN CEDAW regulation” was added to the petition. The PRADA CASE is a violation of human rights by a multi-national enterprise, PRADA Group.
3. The Japan Issues
Human Rights Education
There is a lack of education on individual value in Japan (especially on gender issues) and the society’s perception of gender roles is extremely poor. There is no gender equality education in the compulsory education system. There is no strict requirement of seminar and examination on discrimination and harassment at the workplace and even in the judicial system in Japan. My labor complaint judge had never heard of “gender equality” and asked what it was. My civil case judge was not aware of gender discrimination or sexual harassment. Both judges suggested that if my compensation was high for my age, as a female, I should consider sexual harassment be included.
A ) Length of Labor Case
The PRADA CASE took almost four years. I was not approved for unemployment benefits due to being fired at a criminal level for voicing sexual harassment in public. Governmental health insurance and tax was very high during the unemployment. A labor case should not have taken four years at a district court. The last three years of hearings had no significant progress; but simply repeated content from the first six months.
B ) Gender Discrimination & Sexual Harassment Law At Workplace
The PRADA CASE gave a social recognition that there is no gender discrimination & sexual harassment laws for the workplace in Japan. Both judge and The PRADA Group acknowledged gender discrimination and sexual harassment but ruled it was legal. Gender discrimination, age discrimination, racial discrimination, sexual harassment and power harassment are not legally prohibited in Japan.
C ) Civil Case Transparency
There is no jury system for civil cases and there were often inappropriate acts by the judges during the PRADA CASE. In 2012, I was called into a meeting room by the Civil Act Judge. I was threatened to settle the case right after the final testifying. The judge screamed at me and said; “You caused many problems in the society. Aren’t you scared you will be damaged financially and socially if you chose to go for a ruling? Aren’t you scared people will start leaving you? I will make you lose if you don’t settle. Don’t ever share what I just told you out of this room.” The same incident happened to two former plaintiffs that filed the case and they settled after being terrified. In 2013, there was a similar event. I received a phone call on my mobile phone and was being convinced to agree on the settlement under the condition to never speak about Prada worldwide. I believe the Tokyo District Court does not have the right to control freedom of speech overseas.
D ) Judgment Statement Without Law
There was no civil law used on the 115 pages of the judgment statement issued by the Tokyo Court. Only 1 defamation law was found siding The Prada Group—voicing sexual harassment damaged PRADA’s honor and it was legitimate to fire at criminal level. The entire judgment only stated the judge’s personal opinion without even one civil law.
4. The Fashion Issues
Worldwide, fashion is millions of young girl’s dreams and is a multi-billion dollar industry. Identifying fashion and beauty is a responsibility of fashion leaders and it should never tolerate discrimination and harassment to the consumer, employees, and society. There is no specific support system for the fashion industry on working conditions. There were no laws to protect discrimination and harassment in the workplace upon countries where multi-national enterprises conduct business—and this should be prohibited immediately.
5. The Social Impact
The social impact from the global recognition of the PRADA CASE helped improve female equality—except for in Japan (where the case took place). There are still no gender discrimination and sexual harassment laws for the workplace in Japan.
Despite the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Economic and Social Council statement urging the Japanese government to introduce in its legislation an offence of sexual harassment in the workplace and the Change.org online petition which reached over 220,000 signatures around the world, there was no action taken by the Japanese government.
In fact, the situation of gender discrimination and sexual harassment at work place increased after I filed my case in 2009. In 2009, 56% of labor issues reported by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare were sexual harassment cases. This ratio remains over 50% as of this year. From 2009 to 2011, the number of sexual harassment cases doubled. From 2009 to 2013, sexual harassment cases increased 40%.
On the contrary, I would like to thank Hong Kong Legislative Councillors, NGOs and Women in Business at The American Chamber of Commerce in Tokyo for supporting the PRADA CASE.
In 2011, the Chair of Democratic Party and Law Maker of Hong Kong Legislative Council met to review the PRADA CASE after PRADA Group was approved for IPO at Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Now, there is an updated regulation to monitor approval procedure including compliance details at Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The Hong Kong NGOs recently issued a statement against the Japanese government and the Prada Group for immediate improvement for labor and human rights violating workers’ rights and women’s rights.
In 2013, the Chair of Women In Business at the American Chamber of Commerce in Tokyo reached out to support improving the gender equality at American standard. The PRADA CASE gave me an opportunity here in California to educate myself further on the gender discrimination and harassment laws to carry out the recognition and change the society’s perception of gender roles.
I was a proud returning citizen from New York when I first testified on May 14, 2010 at Tokyo Court. I am no longer proud to be a citizen of Japan after my experience of Japanese society and unfair treatment at Tokyo Court. I am relocating myself back to the US to work in the equal career opportunities environment where I feel good and safe.
I cannot foresee my future growth as woman in business in a country where no law exists to protect working females on gender discrimination and sexual harassment nor the society without perception on gender equality.
I was astounded to find out that I was being countersued by Prada for $780,000 since, “Voicing sexual harassment damaged Prada’s honor.” If Prada will be successful in their case against me—this will make the current stage of gender inequality in Japan even worse. Women in Japan will have to fear lawsuits for voicing gender inequality and/or sexual harassment. The ruling in Prada’s countersuit against me will take place this fall.
The UN High Commissioner of Human Rights issued a statement after the PRADA CASE counter report was filed including the countersuit. The UN statement clearly stated to ensure that victims can lodge complaints without fear of retaliation.
I hope Tokyo Court will make a positive change and let this case be an inspiration for both women in business and young generations worldwide.
Evidence 5: The UN statement issued on May 17, 2013 is a top line report including the recent ‘comfort women’ perspective of Japan.
United States Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy
American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, Women In Business Committee
United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, Economic and Social Council
United Nations Convention of Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Chair of Democratic Party & Hong Kong Legislative Councillor
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women
The Association for the Advancement of Feminism
Catering and Hotels Industries Employees General Union
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Labour Action China
Retail, Commerce and Clothing Industries General Union
Women Coalition on Equal Opportunities
Women Committee of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Working Women’s Network
Rina was also interviewed by CBS Los Angeles recently. You can read this report from here.