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Japanís Parliament Grants First Ever Maternity Leave

Date Posted: 2000-03-17

For the first time in its history, the rigid Japanese Upper House of Parliament last Friday passed a law that would allow pregnant members official leave of absence so that they can deliver and take care of their babies in their earliest stage of development.

Faced with an expectant mother in its ranks, the male-dominated parliament embraced the measure of gender recognition by granting its first-ever maternity leave for an MP.

The first person who may benefit from that new measure is Ms. Seiko Hashimoto, expected to give birth next month. The 35-year-old Hashimoto, a former medal-winning Olympic speed skater and a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party expressed the wish that what just happened within parliament would soon be spread to the private sector for the benefit of the few other working mothers of Japan.

Hashimoto will be only the second female lawmaker, and the first in the Upper House, to give birth while parliament is in session. Tenkoko Sonoda, a Lower House member, had a baby in 1950. Hashimoto already broke one barrier by becoming the first woman MP to be allowed to use her maiden name as a lawmaker. Before last Fridayís vote, an official leave of absence in the body could be granted only for accidents, illness and official business.

There are maternity leave laws on the books in Japan, but MPs fall into a special work category not covered by the regular workplace laws.

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