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Furor erupts in wake of Health Minister’s controversial words

Date Posted: 2007-02-10

Japan’s Health Minister is finding that equating the country’s declining birth rate with women being ‘baby making machines’ is causing significant anger.

Hakuo Yanagisawa called women ‘baby making machines’ during a speech last week, triggering hundreds of angry protests from every corner of the spectrum. From Communist, Socialist, People’s Socialist and Democratic Parties, the reaction is the same; “He’s not human, and very lower class.” Critics say he “doesn’t respect women or their lives at all.”

Demands from his resignation have come from nearly every quarter, including from 31 female members of the Assembly. They’ve sent a letter to Prime Minister Shinozou Abe, demanding he be fired. Communist Party member Hisako Hokama, Socialist Party member Nobuko Karimata and Koko Higa of the People’s Socialist Party have banded with seven other lady politicians to lash out at Yanagisawa. “The health minister doesn’t think about women’s lives,” they told reporters.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s female Assembly members were invited to the session, but refused. They’ve taken the position the health minister should not resign, saying anybody can make a mistake in his speech. The uproar came after Yanagisawa said “Japan is now facing a big problem with a decreasing population, so women should make more babies, like machines. I’m sorry to say machines, but that describes it.”

The 20 seconds long comment has fanned heavy opposition to his leadership. “I can’t think how much his morals have lowered, maybe lower than any other politician,” is how one opponent described it.

Okinawa’s women in party positions say “anybody can notice that he was hyper for his speech, and was vigorously speaking.” They pointed out that Yanagisawa is a gentle grandfather and father, and cares greatly about his family. Others say his generosity and public actions far outweigh the slip of the tongue last week.

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