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Will one apology resolve issue of sexist remarks at assembly?

Publication Date : 25-06-2014


Why didn’t the male assembly member come forward sooner to admit to the sexist remark he made toward a female colleague during a Tokyo Metropolitan assembly session?

During a session last Wednesday, Ayaka Shiomura of Your Party was raising a question about the metropolitan government’s support measures for pregnancy and child-rearing. She did so by taking into account the current situation in which women tend to marry and give birth later in life, while an increasing number of women are receiving fertility treatment.

A male assembly member then yelled at her, “You should get married soon.” The remark was said to be followed by other similarly harassing remarks, although in different voices, such as “You should have a baby, yourself, first” and “Can’t you have a baby?”

There was even laughter from those who had apparently been amused by the hecklers’ remarks. We are surprised by the disgraceful conduct of the hecklers and their followers at the assembly.

We wonder how such remarks sound to those women who would very much like to have a baby but are unable to do so, and to couples who are continuously undergoing fertility treatment.

Heckling has been described as “flowers in the assembly”, meaning the right kind of remarks made at the right moments can strike to the heart of the debate, spurring and invigorating productive discussions.

However, it is a matter of course that sexist remarks impairing the dignity of an individual are unpardonable.

Tardy confession

On Monday, Akihiro Suzuki, an assembly member of the Liberal Democratic Party, at last came forward to admit that he was the one who made the first heckling remark. On the same day, Suzuki met with Shiomura and made an apology with his head bowed, saying, “I sincerely apologise for causing anguish.”

At a press conference earlier in the day, Suzuki said, “I didn’t mean to slander her...I had missed an opportunity to apologise earlier,” adding that “It can’t be helped that I’m being criticised for running away.”

Osamu Yoshiwara, secretary general of the LDP grouping in the metropolitan assembly, also apologised as the group’s representative, saying, “We will take the gravity of the matter seriously.”

Suzuki had consistently denied his involvement in the heckling. As the issue swelled to serious proportions, he was probably driven into a corner with no way out but to admit to his actions.

Taking responsibility for his remark, Suzuki left the LDP grouping in the assembly, but he said he would remain as an assembly member.

Following Suzuki’s apology, Shiomura said, “I am somewhat relieved...I can bring the issue to a certain end.”

Regarding the fact that there has so far been no one, besides Suzuki, who has come forward to admit to the remarks, she expressed her skepticism by saying, “I don’t think it’s right that the whole ordeal should come to an end with just one man admitting it.” Such remarks are deemed quite reasonable, as we take into account the nastiness of the latest heckling.

To resolve the entire issue, it is necessary for other assembly members who made the harassing remarks to take responsibility. They cannot remain hidden any longer.

The metropolitan assembly has been flooded with protests. Each assembly member group must make utmost efforts to prevent such controversy from recurring by becoming fully aware that the dignity of the assembly is being tested.


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