News:Japanese women angered by politician's remarks women like being at home
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Remarks by a senior Japanese politician that Japanese women "find pleasure" in staying at home, made during an international conference earlier this month to foster female entrepreneurship, have sparked controversy and led to the creation of a protest group.
Yoshikatsu Nakayama, vice minister of economy, trade and industry, made the remarks during the Women's Entrepreneurship Summit on Oct. 1 in the central Japanese city of Gifu, which was jointly hosted by Japan and the United States.
"Japanese women find pleasure in working at home and that has been part of Japanese culture," Nakayama said during the conference attended by around 300 businesswomen and other participants from the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
"That should be given more credit through (raising their husbands') salaries, but it has become impossible as the situation surrounding men became severe," he said.
The 65-year-old politician who holds the third-highest position at the industry ministry also said that Japanese women hold the power behind the throne, and repeated that it was part of Japanese culture for them to stay at home.
The remarks surprised conference participants and appalled many others as they spread widely through the Twitter social networking site and by word of mouth, participants and members of the protest group said.
"I was embarrassed because his remarks revealed how backward Japan is," said a Japanese woman who runs her own business and attended the conference.
A U.S. participant told her that in the United States, no one would say such a thing in public even if he or she held sexist ideas, she said.
Women angered by the remarks formed a protest group Oct. 7 to demand Nakayama, a House of Representatives member from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, retract the remarks and apologize. Some women said they were disappointed because they previously thought that the DPJ was positive about promoting women's social participation.
The group, led by Fusako Okada, is soliciting protest e-mail messages to send to the industry ministry. So far, women in Hokkaido, Aichi, Toyama, Kyoto, Kochi, and Nakayama's hometown in Tokyo's Taito Ward, have cooperated, the group said.
Nakayama told Kyodo News on Thursday that he "regrets" what he said. "I would like to do what I can, albeit small, for women to play a greater role in business," he said.
The Switzerland-based World Economic Forum said recently that Japan ranked 94th out of 134 countries in terms of gender equality. Last year, a United Nations committee recommended that the Japanese government deal with discrimination against women in laws, employment and wages.
"Encouraging women to stay at home is a 20th century" way of thinking, said Mariko Bando, head of Showa Women's University who drew up a number of policies related to women while she was a senior bureaucrat.
"Japan ranks low (with regard to the status of women) because there are many politicians who do not pay attention to the realities of the world," she said.