Abe grilled in Diet over minister's 'birth-giving machine' remark
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 06:54 EST
TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe found himself in hot water Monday as he was grilled in the Diet over a gaffe by his health minister who called women "birth-giving machines" and challenged by the opposition leader for greater transparency in political funds reports.
Main opposition Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa criticized health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa for making the "unacceptable" remarks that violated women's human rights and demanded an explanation from the premier. "I also believe the remarks were inappropriate and have strictly warned the minister to be aware not to cause further misunderstanding," Abe replied. "To give birth and raise children is a noble act and nothing can be compared to the love that a mother gives to her child."
Abe rejects opposition demand to fire Yanagisawa over 'birth-giving machine' remark
Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 07:30 EST
TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday rejected an opposition demand that he sack health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa over his remark comparing women to "birth-giving machines" when referring to Japan's declining birthrate.
Abe, responding to an opposition questioner at a House of Representatives plenary session, said, "Cabinet ministers' remarks weigh heavily and Mr Yanagisawa should reflect on causing misunderstanding. But, I'd like to see him perform his duties and achieve results, based on such reflections," Abe said.
In a speech Saturday in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Yanagisawa touched on the nation's declining birthrate and said, "The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed. Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head."
Abe reiterated Tuesday that he has strictly warned Yanagisawa over his remarks, and the premier dismissed concerns that the latest blunder would hurt Japan's image abroad, saying Yanagisawa has already retracted his words and reflected on the situation.
Abe repeated that he saw no need for Yanagisawa to resign and that he wants the minister to continue to be dedicated to his job so as to gain public trust by fulfilling his duties.
Meanwhile, about 30 representatives from various women's organizations held a rally in front of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in central Tokyo on Tuesday, demanding Yanagisawa's resignation.
"Are women machines, and then are children industrial products?" one of the demonstrators asked. Another demonstrator said Yanagisawa's remark was one of the worst in the history of discrimination against women in Japan.
The participants later handed a document to the ministry demanding that the government first improve the environment in which women can give birth to babies and raise them, rather than merely encouraging women to have children.
The leaders of three opposition parties visited the prime minister's office Tuesday evening and filed a demand seeking Yanagisawa's resignation from the cabinet.
Ichiro Ozawa, president of the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters later that Abe declined to meet the opposition leaders because of his busy schedule and that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki accepted the demand on Abe's behalf.
Ozawa said he does not know if Abe would offer a reply to the opposition demand later.
Ozawa said Yanagisawa's remark "really ignores women's human rights and disregards women" and that the health minister "cannot be pardoned not only as a cabinet minister or a politician but as a human being."
Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima said both Abe and Shiozaki have offered an apology over Yanagisawa's remark for causing misunderstanding.
But, Fukushima said, the remark did not cause misunderstanding but denied women's human rights.
Earlier Tuesday, Ozawa, Fukushima and People's New Party leader Tamisuke Watanuki met in the Diet and agreed to urge Abe to sack Yanagisawa as minister of health, labor and welfare.
The three shared the view that the remarks disqualify Yanagisawa from holding the job of health minister, one of the posts in charge of dealing with the declining birthrate, opposition lawmakers said.
The Japanese Communist Party, the second-largest opposition party after the DPJ, did not join the meeting, apparently in a gesture to demonstrate its separate identity ahead of April's local and July's House of Councillors elections.
DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Yoshiaki Takaki told a Tuesday morning news conference that his party will pursue Prime Minister Abe's responsibility over his appointment of Yanagisawa in Diet deliberations.
In Tuesday's cabinet session, Abe urged his ministers to be cautious about their remarks, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura told a news conference.
Yanagisawa refuses to resign over 'birth-giving machine' remark
Monday, February 5, 2007 at 07:17 EST
TOKYO — Health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa said Sunday evening he does not intend to resign for describing women as "birth-giving machines." I will fulfill the duties I have been given," he said. Yanagisawa's gaffe has put Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a difficult position ahead of nationwide local elections in April and the House of Councillors election in July.
Abe has stood by Yanagisawa and dismissed calls for the minister to resign ever since his gaffe stirred a public outcry, but a Kyodo News opinion poll showed the same day that support for Abe has dropped to a record low of 40.3% and has been surpassed by the disapproval rating for the first time since he became premier four months ago.