June 24, 2014 / 9:38 AM / 5 years ago

Heckled woman lawmaker says Japan PM's good intentions not enough

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese lawmaker whose sexist heckling by a male colleague has become a cause celebre in Japan said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promises to boost the role of working women were welcome, but not enough.

Measures to make it easier for women to work and raise children are a key plank of Abe’s strategy, unveiled the same day, to boost long-term growth in the face of a rapidly aging and shrinking population.

Abe appealed to business leaders to do more to promote women and went on an online offensive by starting a blog promoting “Japan where all women can shine” through the Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office.

“I agree with (Abe’s) words. But the reality is that even in Tokyo alone, it’s difficult for women to work. There is no climate that invigorates women. There is no substance,” Ayaka Shiomura, 35, an opposition member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, told a news conference.

Shiomura had been speaking about steps to support infertile and working women in a Tokyo city assembly session last week when male lawmakers shouted “Hurry up and get married” and “Can’t you give birth?”

Akihiro Suzuki, a member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), first denied making such remarks but later publicly apologized.

The sexist jeers outraged many people in Japan. On Monday night, people threw eggs at Suzuki’s office building. His office did not answer calls requesting comment.

Abe apologized to Keiichiro Asao, representative of Your Party to which Shiomura belongs, for the sexist heckling. Shiomura said she was not aware of the apology, but she was glad the prime minister had publicly commented on the issue.

Editing by Linda Sieg and Nick Macfie

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