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Outrage follows sexist outburst at Tokyo assembly meeting

By Will Ripley and Edmund S. Henry, CNN
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 0913 GMT (1713 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Male colleagues heckled assemblywoman Ayaka Shiomura
  • They interrupted her with comments urging her to get married
  • They also questioned whether she could bear children.

Tokyo (CNN) -- Outrage is growing in Japan after lawmakers hurled sexist comments at an assemblywoman giving a speech this week about the need for more services for women.

Male colleagues heckled Your Party member Ayaka Shiomura on Wednesday during a Tokyo assembly meeting. They interrupted her with comments urging her to get married and questioning whether she could bear children.

Shiomura had taken the stage to urge the Tokyo Metropolitan government to increase efforts to support women. Citing recent regulations that require mothers to fold up their strollers when boarding a train, she outlined struggles Japanese women face when dealing with pregnancy and raising a child due to lack of public support.

She also addressed the issue of infertility.

However, she was interrupted by a male member of the ruling LDP who shouted, "You should get married!"

Shiomura smiled weakly and continued amid male laughter.

Can 'womenomics' save Japan?

A second outburst, "Can't you even bear a child?" followed as tears welled up in her eyes and her voice began to break.

When she sat down after her speech, she was seen drying her eyes with a handkerchief. Later, she posted on Facebook that the outbursts were like "a punch in the gut" and called on the hecklers to come forward.

Backlash ensued, with television pundits debating the incident and women lawmakers demanding the names of those responsible be released.

Sexism in common in the nation's workplace, and there have been concerns that Japan's fertility rate will continue to drop as more women choose careers instead of marriage and children.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has attempted to fill a gender gap in the workplace through "Womenomics," but men still hold the majority of positions of authority and command greater salaries.

Men in Japan earn 30% more than their female counterparts, according to statistics cited by Abe during an editorial last year announcing the launch of "Womenomics."

Statistics from the National Personnel Authority show just 3% of women are managers in Japan's central government, a number the Prime Minister has said is too low.

The goal is to increase that number to 30% by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Abe has said.

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