Debate In Japan As Local Politician With Baby Ejected From Chamber

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TOKYO, Nov 24 – A local Japanese female politician who brought her baby into an assembly meeting to highlight the issues women face in the workplace has sparked debate after being ejected from the chamber.

Yuka Ogata took her seven-month-old son to join a municipal assembly session of southern Kumamoto city on Wednesday but other lawmakers asked her to leave, according to local media.

“Under the rules, only politicians, staff members and city officials can go on to the assembly floor,” an official at Kumamoto City Assembly told AFP on Friday. The assembly was delayed for 40 minutes. Ogata joined after leaving the child with a friend, according to public broadcaster NHK.

“Apparently she told the chairman that she wanted to create a woman-friendly work environment,” the official said. Her move has sparked debate online with supporters saying she was brave and opponents questioning if it was a good idea to bring a baby to a workplace.

“I think her act was wonderful. People wouldn’t take problems seriously” if she hadn’t shown up with the child, one Twitter user said. “Balancing work and child rearing isn’t about being with a child all the time at a workplace,” said another user, who identified herself as a fellow working mother.

“I really cannot understand her action,” wrote this user. In May, a breastfeeding senator made Australian political history by becoming the first woman to nurse her newborn baby in the parliament.

Being able to breastfeed in the chamber follows new rules introduced last year to create a more “family-friendly” parliament. Under previous rules, children were technically banned in the Australian parliament.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made increasing female participation in the workforce a key plank of his “Abenomics” strategy to reboot Japan’s once-mighty economy. However, women are still underrepresented in politics with only 47 of the 465 members of the lower house. According to statistics compiled by the Swiss-based Inter-Parliamentary Union, this ratio of 10.1% places Japan below Myanmar and Gambia. — AFP

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