Budget boycott to continue over Yanagisawa

Kyodo News

Three opposition parties agreed Saturday to continue boycotting Diet deliberations on the supplementary budget unless health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa resigns for referring to women as “child-bearing machines.”

Opposition lawmakers said the accord was reached at a meeting of Naoto Kan, acting president of the biggest opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Seiji Mataichi, secretary general of the Social Democratic Party, and Hisaoki Kamei, secretary general of People’s New Party.

The three also agreed to organize a summit of their leaders, possibly Monday, to map out joint Diet strategies, such as possibly submitting a no-confidence motion against Yanagisawa.

Yanagisawa angered numerous voters Jan. 24 by comparing women to “child-bearing machines” in a speech to members of the Shimane Prefectural Assembly on how the nation can turn around the falling birthrate, although the 71-year-old minister apologized for and retracted the phrase later in the speech.

“The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed,” he told the meeting. “Because the number of child-bearing machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head.”

The remark caused an uproar and prompted opposition parties to demand his resignation, saying they would boycott House of Representatives sessions over the supplementary budget unless he steps down.

Although the extra budget cleared the Lower House Friday on the strength of the ruling coalition’s majority, it now has to pass the House of Councilors.

In a related development Saturday, DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa held a separate meeting with Masako Uemoto, vice chairwoman of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, the nation’s largest umbrella labor organization.

Ozawa was quoted as telling Uemoto, “Although Diet deliberations are not proceeding in a normal manner, we have to maintain a firm resolve.”