Law association calls practice a violation of human rights.

Almost all schools in Japan require their students to wear uniforms, and often even have rules about what kind of bags and hair ties are acceptable. But perhaps the strangest point of dress codes in Japan can be found at schools which officially state that students must wear plain white underwear.

While not every school has such a requirement, it’s common enough that a recent Saga Prefectural Bar Association study of 22 public middle schools in Saga City found that a majority of them, 13, have such rules in place for their students. The ostensible rationale is that the children’s undergarments should be simple and chaste so as not to cause distractions or contribute to a sexualized atmosphere, and white underwear, particularly white bras, are the least likely color to show a visible outline from under the students’ uniforms.

In and of themselves, the goals are understandable, and while it’s kind of weird to phrase the rule as “white underwear only” instead of “visible underwear colors not allowed,” in practice as long as the non-white underwear isn’t visible, no one will know it’s not white, and the students won’t get in trouble for it, right? Not necessarily. The bar association’s study found that at least one school with the rule, if not more, periodically checks what color of bra female students are wearing that day.

The students (who would be between the ages of 12 and 15) aren’t required to take off their tops for the inspections, but instead a teacher pulls one of the girls’ bra straps up through the collar of her blouse to check its color. The check is performed, at least, by a female teacher, but the bar association still finds the practice reprehensible, saying:

“Commanding someone to show their underwear is a violation of a person’s human rights. It is not acceptable simply because it is a child who is being given the command.”

The statement was part of a report submitted by the bar association to the Saga Prefectural Board of Education and local PTA organizations calling for a reform of school rules. Other questionable regulations discussed in the report include bans on “soft mohawk” hairstyles, not allowing students to wear mufflers when in uniform, and different dress code/hair style rules depending on the student’s gender. Also discussed is the potential confusion from schools having both rules restricting social media use, in the interest of protecting students’ privacy, yet requiring visible name tags on their uniforms, thus revealing their names to passersby on their way to/from campus.

The bar association urges schools to reconsider whether their rules actually have a positive effect on the quality of the students’ education, particularly in the modern era, and to take student input into consideration when making revisions in order to help cultivate a feeling of mutual understanding.

Sources: Yomiuri Shimbun via Livedoor News via Jin, Saga Shimbun Live via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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