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Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007
Opposition ranks want Yanagisawa axed before deliberating on budget
By MASAMI ITO
Three opposition parties demanded Tuesday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dismiss health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa for describing women as "child-bearing machines."
Abe rejected the demand, saying that he wants Yanagisawa to continue his duties.
Yanagisawa, 71, has triggered criticism from the ruling coalition as well as the opposition camp.
"Health minister Yanagisawa's statement that women are 'child-bearing machines' denies the human rights of women and holds them in contempt," said Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan.
He called the remark an "unforgivable, offensive" comment that neither a politician nor minister, or anybody for that matter, should make.
The three parties -- the DPJ, the Social Democratic Party and People's New Party -- demanded that Abe dismiss Yanagisawa before the Diet takes up budget deliberations and accept responsibility for appointing him as health minister.
We "cannot deliberate (on the budget) even if (we) wanted to with the existence of such a minister," Ozawa said.
Yanagisawa's comment "is not just a domestic issue," Ozawa said after submitting a written request to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki that the minister be dismissed.
"This could seriously damage the trust toward Japan" internationally, he said.
The three parties said they had asked to speak to Abe directly about the issue but were told the prime minister was too busy.
Tamisuke Watanuki, leader of People's New Party, said Abe's reaction has been lukewarm, the same as with other scandals in recent months.
"This is a serious issue and proper measures need to be taken to set things right," Watanuki said. "Just an apology (from Yanagisawa) will not settle the matter."
On Monday, all 28 female lawmakers of the DPJ, the Japanese Communist Party and the SDP handed Yanagisawa a letter demanding that he resign. The lawmakers cited his failure to mention the possibility of resigning in his apology.
Despite the outcry, Yanagisawa has repeatedly expressed his intention to stay at his post.
Yanagisawa's comment was made in a speech Saturday in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, on the declining birthrate and the strained social welfare and pension system.
"The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed," Yanagisawa said. "Because the number of child-bearing machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head."
On Monday, Abe issued a warning to Yanagisawa over his "inappropriate" remark.