A politician from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has issued a reluctant apology after suggesting that single women are a burden on the state.
Kanji Kato, 72, was accused of sexism for telling newlyweds that they need to have at least three children and those who fail to have large enough families will end up living in nursing homes paid for with other people’s taxes.
Mr Kato made the comments in a meeting on Thursday of a faction of the LDP. A number of female politicians at the event immediately condemned the attitude of Mr Kato - who has six children and eight grandchildren - with one woman telling Kyodo News “This is exactly sexual harassment”.
Mr Kato’s comments have provoked a storm of criticism in a nation that is wrestling with a sharply contracting birth rate, an aging population and shrinking tax revenues. It has also been wracked by scandals involving sexism in politics, the media and the world of entertainment.
“I always tell brides and grooms at wedding parties that I would like them to have three or more children”, Mr Kato said. “We need three or more children from those people to make up for couple who cannot bear a child no matter what they do”.
Those who fail to meet Mr Kato’s suggested quota will live on pensions and receive health care paid for with the taxes of other people’s children, he said.
Challenged about whether he would amend or retract his advice, Mr Kato was unapologetic.
“Improving the birth rate is the most important issue facing our nation. That is all”, he said.
Under pressure from senior LDP members, however, Mr Kato’s office issued a statement later in the day in which he said, “I apologise if my words game the wrong impression. Although I never intended to discriminate against women, I retract the remarks I made because they could have been interpreted as such”.