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Beauty products now allowed for male inmates

TOKYO >> The Justice Ministry is allowing male inmates to purchase or be given beauty items and a few other products that traditionally have been allowed only for female inmates.

Daily necessities such as clothing, bedding, towels and writing materials are loaned or provided at prisons and other penal institutions. Prisoners also can purchase items for daily use with money they deposited with the institutions when they were imprisoned, or receive such items from their families and others.

These items are specified in the ministry’s official directive. Many of them, including shampoos and handkerchiefs, are permitted for both men and women. But beauty lotions and other skin care products, bath towels and hair conditioners had been permitted only for women.

According to the ministry, the directive reflected the traditional perspective that deemed the items “generally used by women.”

But due in part to growing awareness of gender equality in recent years, some officials have pointed out that there is no rationale for limiting the use of those items to women.

In September, at a meeting of officials from across the country, the point was raised that allowing male inmates to use these items would not create problems, and on Jan. 9, the ministry notified the country’s penal institutions that the directive had been revised.

Under the new directive, the use of rubber hair bands and sanitary napkins will continue to be allowed only for women.

“Too large a gap between the prison environment and the real world will hamper inmates’ smooth reintegration into society,” a senior ministry official said. “To the extent possible, it is necessary to treat them in a manner that is in line with changes in society.”

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