Japan starts allowing Male Inmates to Use Beauty Items From Feb.; Hair and Skin Care Products No Longer ‘Just for Women’

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Justice Ministry

The Justice Ministry began from this month to allow male inmates to purchase or receive as gifts beauty items and two other kinds of products, that have been allowed only for female inmates.

Daily necessities such as clothing, bedding, towels and writing materials are lent 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.

Items that can be purchased or given as gifts are specified in the ministry’s official directive. Many of them, including shampoos and handkerchiefs, are permitted for both men and women, but beauty lotion and other skin care products, bath towels, and hair conditioners were permitted only for women.

According to the ministry, the directive reflected the thinking of its time, in which these items were considered something “generally used by women.”

However, partly due to the growing awareness of gender equality in recent years, some ministry officials pointed out that there is no rational reason to limit their use to women.

It was also pointed out allowing male inmates to use these items would not create any problems at a meeting of officials in charge of the treatment of prisoners across the country in September last year.

On Jan. 9, the ministry notified prisons and other penal institutions around the country of the revision of the directive.

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

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