Japan to let women work in mines

Tokyo, Japan -- Japan is to end a ban on women working in mines and tunnels, based on an ancient superstition that their presence could make a mountain goddess jealous.

In the Shinto religion, mountains are considered to be divine. Miners have believed for centuries that the goddess of a mountain might become angry and collapse tunnels and cause accidents if other women come into her space.

Until a law was passed in 1872, women were even prohibited from climbing mountains, including Mount Fuji, which is considered especially sacred.

Labour regulations dating back to 1948 forbid women to work inside mountains as supervisors or labourers in mines and tunnels.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Keidanren, Japan's equivalent of the CBI, have called on the government to change the regulations and they are now being revised.

Keidanren said the ban went against the spirit of workplace equality. The constitution forbids sexual discrimination but Japanese law contains a number of anomalies.

Japan does not allow women to ascend the throne and a divorced woman is not permitted to remarry for six months, though her ex-husband may do so immediately.

Shinto traditions also still dictate that women may not enter the consecrated ring where sumo wrestlers fight, because wrestlers believe that women are impure.