TOKYO (TR) – Last week, male lawmakers threw sexist comments at Your Party member Ayaka Shiomura as she gave a speech at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly urging the government to increase efforts to support women.
“The average age of women who are delivering their first child is nearly 32 in Tokyo, way too high,” Shiomura, 35, said during the session on Wednesday, according to the Asahi Shimbun (June 19). “The number of women who are receiving infertility treatments is increasing. The metropolitan government should take a more active role in mitigating their problems.”
At this point, a male assembly member, who was not identified, yelled, “You are the one who must get married as soon as possible.” Laughter filled the room. Then another screamed, “Can’t you even bear a child?”
News reports indicated that another voice asked whether she was involved in an adulterous relationship.
Since then, the incident has garnered international attention, and as of now the perpetrators have not come forward.
Two days later, she sat down with Tokyo Sports (June 20), which asked if some of the jeering was connected to a report in weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun (April 24) that claimed she was engaged in an affair with 37-year-old Hidehiro Mitani, also a Your Party member.
Shiomura said that around the time of the Tokyo gubernatorial election in February false rumors began to circulate in weekly magazines. “They are groundless,” she told Tokyo Sports.
She said that the heckling she received at the meeting was the culmination of repeated abuse. “It is not just me,” she said. “At the Tokyo assembly, the situation with regard to heckling is cruel, there’s a constant need for jokes, for jeering. That’s the environment that lead up to the sexual harassment.”
Tokyo Sports also asked about her appearances on the Nippon Television program “Much Ado About Love.” On one show from 2007, she boasted of having taken 15 million yen from a man as compensation for ending a relationship, because, as she said, “You can’t break up for nothing.”
In the program, hosted Sanma Akashiya is known for playfully abusing the female guests. “As to Sanma, even though there is poison in his words there is also love,” she said. “In this case [on Wednesday], there was no deep wit, just sexual harassment that was like bullying.”
After her speech on Wednesday ended, Shiomura, who assumed office in June of last year, was seen seated and dabbing away tears with a cloth. The assemblywoman later said that the jeering originated from seats occupied by members of the Liberal Democratic Party. (She told Tokyo Sports it involved seven or eight LDP members.) Your Party on Friday filed a request with assembly president Toshiaki Yoshino, a member of the LDP, to take action against those who verbally abused Shiomura.
The claim, however, was rejected since Shiomura was unable to name the perpetrators.
Shiomura told Tokyo Sports that the incident was deplorable for more than just personal reasons.
“With the Olympic Games coming in 2020, you are trying to put on your best as far as exhibiting maturity and exhibiting high culture,” she said. “So it is necessary for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to be a source of enlightenment.”