A Tokyo assemblywoman subjected to sexist taunts by male colleagues last week said Tuesday the capital’s legislative body needs to be reformed so that the voices of women can be heard.
“A local-level assembly like the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly is not a friendly place for women to work, and it doesn’t make use of women’s dynamism,” Ayaka Shiomura, a member of Your Party, told a packed Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.
Shiomura said it was important to increase the number of female lawmakers in order to make policies beneficial to women a reality.
The 35-year-old assemblywoman said she backs Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy of making Japan more women-friendly. “I place my hope in Prime Minister Abe” to create a society that embraces various voices, she said.
In a blog launched Tuesday by the Cabinet Office to promote the active participation of women in society, Abe, who is also president of the Liberal Democratic Party, said, “If women shine, Japan will be brighter and brighter.”
Shiomura said that in her year in the assembly she has seen how men set the norm for how things proceed.
“Such an environment probably caused the incident this time,” she said. “The atmosphere at the assembly allows men to express what is on their minds.”
Shiomura said she would take steps to prevent a recurrence of sexist ridicule in the assembly.
“First of all, I hope those who uttered such jeers will come forward,” she said, adding a legal complaint would be a “real last resort.”
Akihiro Suzuki, an assemblyman from the LDP, admitted shouting at Shiomura, “Why don’t you get married soon?” while she spoke at a session. He publicly apologized to her on Monday, five days after the taunt, which sparked public outrage both at home and abroad.
Suzuki offered to quit the LDP group in the assembly but told reporters that he would continue as a metropolitan assembly member.
Suzuki admitted to making the first remark but denied having made another controversial remark, “Can’t you have babies?”
A group of Your Party members in the assembly has announced it will commission an analysis of a recording of the sexist taunts leveled at Shiomura in a bid to identify the voices.
However, they admitted the effort might be hampered by the poor quality of the recording.
“I want whoever made the remark to come forward. If that’s difficult, I want each parliamentary group to conduct a detailed investigation into the matter,” said Minoru Morozumi, secretary-general of the group.
Meanwhile, police said Monday that about 20 raw eggs had been hurled at the entrance to Suzuki’s Ota Ward office.
Early Tuesday, a man in his 50s turned himself in to police, allegedly telling them, “I did it.” The police are investigating his claim.
A taxi driver who witnessed the incident said a man who was shouting incomprehensibly took eggs from a package one by one and threw them at the office entrance.
Information From Kyodo Added