Tokyo: What should be done about sexist heckling in the capital's assembly?

by Reina Kikkawa

Special To The Japan Times

The sexist jeering of Your Party lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura, apparently by male Liberal Democratic Party members, in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on June 18 made headlines around the world, So far only one of the men, Akihiro Suzuki, has admitted to the heckling and apologized for his actions. Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Taro Yamashita has said that he shouted words of support for Shiomura in response to the hecklers as Shiomura was speaking about child-rearing policy. No lawmakers have been punished for the incident. Reina Kikkawa sought opinions on the furor on the streets of the capital.

Ayako Higashikawa, 26
Hair stylist (Japanese)
I think the reports of this incident will change the attitude toward sexist heckling in Japanese society as a whole. People — both men and women — are now more aware of this kind of jeering. I understand that treating people equally is difficult and that in some areas men could be superior to women, but the hecklers’ words went too far.

Shu-ling Chang, 46
Diplomat (Taiwanese)
Only two have confessed [counting Yamashita, who says he shouted in support of Shiomura] and there are still hecklers who are hiding. They should come out. People in Tokyo should not forget about this incident until all the hecklers apologize and take responsibility for what they have done. We should all be aware of and be responsible for what we say.

Armando Margzrido, 29
French teacher (Swiss/ Portuguese)
I think it was a good start for Suzuki to apologize. His words were offensive and he had to apologize. But it seemed to me that demanding his dismissal is asking too much. Here in Japan, and in other countries in Asia in general, people care too much about image. In order to move forward, they should get rid of that kind of consideration.

Hiromi Arai, 55
University official (Japanese)
Suzuki, Yamashita and all the other hecklers in the assembly must quit. I am filled with anger that the Tokyo assembly closed for the summer without clearing up the incident. Recently, I have seen a bit of gossip about Ms. Shiomura’s personal life. This is a completely different issue that we should not mix up with this problem.

Ann-Mary Dizanadzo, 21
Student (British)
I think they should have a more serious punishment, especially because they are politicians. Politicians are representatives. They represent the behavior that we aim for. If they are doing sexist behavior towards their colleague, then many men will think it’s fine because the members of Parliament are doing it. Nothing will change until we take a serious stance on this.

Koji Yamaguchi, 39
Occupational therapist (Japanese)
What we say as a joke could be regarded as sexist heckling. It could be taken as an insult even though we did not intend it as such. From this incident, I personally learned that I have to be really careful of what I say.

Interested in collecting vox pops in your local area? If so, please email community@japantimes.co.jp. Send comments to the same address.

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