A bipartisan group of female lawmakers Thursday called for Osaka Mayor and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) coleader Toru Hashimoto to retract and apologize for his abrasive comments justifying the sexual enslavement of females during the war and suggesting that U.S. servicemen in Okinawa make use of legal brothels.

“Hashimoto’s comments harmed the dignity of both men and women,” said Keiko Itokazu, an independent representing Okinawa in the Upper House.

Itokazu said Hashimoto insulted the people of Okinawa, where women from Taiwan, Korea and Okinawa itself were forced to provide sex for Imperial soldiers at more than 140 wartime “comfort stations.” Japan euphemistically refers to them as the “ianfu,” or “comfort women.”

Eleven women in the opposition, including the Democratic Party of Japan, People’s Life Party, Green Wind and the Japanese Communist Party, attended the press conference, but no one from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party or junior coalition partner New Komeito attended, even though the group had called on all female lawmakers in the Diet to unite.

Also notable by their absence were opposition party Nippon Ishin’s six female Diet members.

Hashimoto has refused to back down from criticism of his comments at home and abroad.

Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima said Hashimoto was unfit to hold office. “I question his qualifications to be mayor, let alone a coleader of a public political party,” she said.

The bipartisan group also raised questions about Nippon Ishin members claiming Hashimoto’s remarks were his personal views, not the party’s, and demanded it take an official stance on the issue.

Nippon Ishin coleader Shintaro Ishihara has backed Hashimoto’s stance, saying prostitution exists where the military is.

The bipartisan group also blamed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for not commenting on Hashimoto’s disparaging discourse, which was prompted by questions about what he thought about Abe’s view of Japan’s aggression during the war.

On Wednesday, when Abe was asked at the Upper House Budget Committee what he thought about Hashimoto’s views, he only said Hashimoto’s stance differed from that of his own Cabinet, but that he was not in a position to comment.

“The global community might misunderstand that Japan as a whole has a very despicable view of human rights, because Abe did not make any comments,” said People’s Life Party leader Yuko Mori. “Abe should have clarified how Hashimoto’s views were different from his.”

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