Sumo stokes controversy as ‘ritually unclean’ female medics banished from ‘sacred’ ring
The incident occurred when medics were attempting to revive Ryozo Tatami, the 67-year-old mayor of Maizuru, Kyoto, where the tournament was being held, who fell unconscious after suffering an acute cerebral hemorrhage while giving a ring-top speech on Wednesday.
Two female medics immediately rushed to give first aid, but when two more women tried to join, a sumo referee said, “Ladies, please get off the ring. Only gentlemen go up.”
Women are deemed “ritually unclean” and the sumo ring “sacred.” According to witnesses, officials were seen throwing large quantities of salt into the ring in an attempt to “re-purify” the area where the women had walked.
The sumo organization has been heavily criticized, and accused of choosing ritual over life by preventing the women from performing life-saving CPR.
The head of Japan’s sumo federation, Nobuyoshi Hakkaku, apologized later for the incident, which he called “an inappropriate response in a life-threatening situation.”
Sumo’s male-only tradition has caused controversy in the past, with even top female politicians being prohibited from honoring sumo wrestlers.
The sumo world has been faced with a string of scandals in recent months. In January, top-ranked sumo referee Shikimori Inosuke was suspended for sexually harassing a junior referee during a regional tour in December.
Last month, two junior wrestlers claimed to have been physically abused by senior competitors, one incident included Juryo-division wrestler Takayoshitoshi repeatedly hitting a junior competitor, for which he later apologized.
In November 2017, nine-time sumo grand champion ‘Harumafuji’ of Mongolia was accused of attacking a lower-ranked wrestler with a bottle of beer, violating the strict sumo rules that prohibit wrestlers from demonstrating their emotions in public.