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Tokyo assembly member apologizes for sexist heckling of female colleague

By Will Ripley and Edmund S. Henry, CNN
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 0331 GMT (1131 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tokyo assembly member apologizes to female colleague
  • Akihiro Suzuki apologizes for heckling assemblywoman, after telling her to "get married"
  • Heckled member accepts apology, but says others should come forward too

Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- A male member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly apologized Monday for shouting sexist remarks at a female colleague as she was giving a speech last week.

Akihiro Suzuki, an assemblyman from the ruling LDP party, admitted to heckling fellow assembly member Ayaka Shiomura, who is from the minority Your Party, during her speech urging increased public support for pregnant Japanese women.

Suzuki, who initially denied any involvement and condemned the harassment in an interview, publicly apologized to Shiomura. While admitting to making the first comment "You should get married," Suzuki has denied making a second comment, "Can't you even bear a child?"

Akihiro Suzuki bows to Ayaka Shiomura, a fellow assembly member, to apologize for his sexist jeer during a Tokyo city hall event.
Akihiro Suzuki bows to Ayaka Shiomura, a fellow assembly member, to apologize for his sexist jeer during a Tokyo city hall event.

Shiomura accepted his apology but stated, "I'm positive that there were others besides Mr. Suzuki who made comments."

She said she hopes that others involved in the heckling will come forward as well.

When asked whether he would continue his position as an assembly member, Suzuki stated he has no plans to resign.

"I will stay on if I'm allowed to," he replied.

The incident last week reignited the debate over sexism in the Japanese workplace. Women are paid, on average, 30% less than their male counterparts, according to statistics cited by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an editorial last year announcing the launch of "Womenomics."

Women also hold just 3% of management positions in Japan's central government, according to the National Personnel Authority. Abe wants to increase that to 30% by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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