Public apology: Suzuki bowing to Shiomura to apologise for his sexist jeer during a recent event, at Tokyo city hall. - AFP
TOKYO: A Tokyo city lawmaker from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party admitted he had been responsible for a sexist taunt shouted at a young assemblywoman in a debate on motherhood.
In a case that has cast a harsh spotlight on the attitudes of many of the older men who occupy senior positions in Japanese public life, 51-year-old Akihiro Suzuki said he had yelled: “Why don’t you get married?” at the opposition assemblywoman.
The episode, which took place last Wednesday, has undermined Abe’s repeated appeals for Japan to boost the role of its under-employed women.
Suzuki had previously repeatedly denied shouting the taunt.
“I made the comment out of my feeling that I would like her to get married soon, as we see the issue of a shrinking population and an increasing number of women not marrying until late,” Suzuki told a hastily-arranged press conference.
The object of his jeering was Ayaka Shiomura, 35, who was questioning senior figures in the administration on plans to help current and future mothers when abuse erupted from seats occupied by Liberal Democratic Party members.
Suzuki’s shout was captured on tape, while some of those in the chamber said they had also heard laughter and taunts such as “Are you not able to have a baby?”
The story initially appeared in two liberal-leaning newspapers last Thursday, but gathered pace both domestically and internationally.
By Friday it had become a major theme and dominated weekend television talk shows, resulting in Suzuki admitting his part yesterday and apologising to Shiomura in a room full of journalists.
He resigned his party membership, but insisted he would stay on as an assemblyman. — AFP