Beauty queen Ikumi Yoshimatsu’s petition brings attention to crimes against women

News & Views - January 16th, 2014

In the wake of a harassment suit against a talent agency executive, beauty queen Ikumi Yoshimatsu was forced out of the Miss International beauty pageant, which she had won the year before. She has gotten the attention of Japan’s First Lady, and her successful petition is close to reaching its goal.

Yoshimatsu filed criminal charges against Genichi Taniguchi (also known as Motokazu Taniguchi), one of Japan’s most powerful talent agency executives. Following Yoshimatsu’s decision to leave her previous talent agency and be represented by her own agency, Taniguchi began to put pressure on Yoshimatsu and the pageant itself.

The International Culture Association, the management behind the pageant, told Yoshimatsu to “play sick and shut up” out of fear the controversy would draw eyes away from the contest. Yoshimatsu also says that threatening calls and private investigators have followed. As her petition explains, she now maintains 24-hour security and is in fear for her life.

But her absence from the ceremony, where she would have made her final walk and hand the crown to her successor, did not go unnoticed.

The First Lady, who was on the judging panel for the pageant, was bombarded with comments from Yoshimatsu’s supporters asking why she did not do anything to help the beauty queen.

Mrs. Abe pleaded ignorance and said she would like to find more about her circumstances. “I was unaware of what happened to her. I would like to find out the truth,” Mrs. Abe replied on her Facebook page.

She quickly followed up with a post the next day, saying: “Thank you for all the various information. I want to take the proper measures. Please give me a little time.” The First Lady had reportedly got in touch with Yoshimatsu and heard her case over an hour long meeting.

Yoshimatsu told The Japan Times she was grateful for the First Lady’s concern.

“I am very pleased that Mrs. Abe has showed concern not only for mer but for the rights of all women in Japan. We need real laws that stop stalkers and prevent needless deaths and injuries before they happen. We need a society where the stalking of women is not tolerated—even if the stalker is a powerful and important man.”

In the weeks that have followed, Yoshimatsu has established a petition on to draw attention both to her situation, but also to get the word out about the poor handling of stalking cases by the Japanese authorities in general. The petition, which is directed to Prime Minister Abe, is already close to reaching its goal, but even more signatures can make the message even clearer: immediate and direct action needs to be taken to address crimes of stalking and harassment against women in Japan. The petition can be signed here.