Yumi Ishikawa says the practice of requiring women to wear heels at work is a form of discrimination, and she is determined to fight it.

“Even things that are accepted as good manners can be forms of gender discrimination,” Ishikawa, founder of the “#KuToo” movement, told a meeting in Tokyo's Nagatacho district on June 11. “It's wrong for only women to have to work in footwear that is painful."

“KuToo” took its inspiration from the global “MeToo” movement against sexual harassment.

The name is also a play on the Japanese words for shoes, "kutsu," and pain, also "kutsu."

Ishikawa, 32, and fellow campaigners submitted an online petition with 18,800 signatures on June 3, asking the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to ban companies from requiring female staff to wear heels.

Shino Naito, a vice senior researcher at the government-affiliated Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training, is another member who joined the June 11 meeting.

“It has been verified scientifically that wearing heels or pumps increases health risks and accidents,” she said. “If such footwear is not necessary for work, requiring women to wear them infringes on their right to self-determination.”

One participant at the meeting noted that the practice is not limited to workplaces.

“Suits for job hunting are sold with pumps as a set. Practically speaking, we don’t have any other choices," she said.

Another said: “Such a strange social norm must be changed.”

The petition called for setting a legal provision that bans the requirement to wear heels, arguing that such a dress code constitutes a form of gender discrimination or harassment.

A ministry official who is handling the petition said, “It is difficult for the government to draw a line between things it should ban and things workers and employers should discuss at their workplaces.”