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Japan PM apologizes for party member's remarks

TOKYO--Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe broke a nearly weeklong silence Tuesday and apologized for sexist taunts shouted by a party member at a young Tokyo assemblywoman.

The apology, issued to the male head of the woman's opposition party, came hours after Abe published a blog on the importance of improving the low rate of female workplace participation in Japan.

In the post, the prime minister called for women to “shine” but made no mention of the episode.

Tokyo assemblyman Akihiro Suzuki, 51, on Monday admitted he had yelled “Why don't you get married?” at Ayaka Shiomura, 35, when she was speaking in the chamber last week during a debate on motherhood.

After days of denials, Suzuki said he was responsible and apologized to Shiomura as he resigned his membership of Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Hours after Suzuki's apology his office was pelted with eggs and his Facebook page was flooded with comments critical of his behavior. He was also vilified on Twitter.

Shiomura was questioning senior figures in the Tokyo city administration on plans to help current and future mothers, when abuse erupted from seats occupied by LDP members.

Suzuki's shout was captured on tape, while some of those in the chamber said they had also heard laughter and taunts such as “Are you not able to have a baby?”

Shiomura told foreign reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday that other assembly members had also joined in the jeering in a chamber that she said did not actively support women.

“I believe the assembly could successfully implement policies by increasing the number of female lawmakers and listening to their voices,” she said.

Japan has one of the lowest rates of female workforce participation in the developed world, and most economists agree it badly needs to boost the number of working women.

But a lack of childcare facilities, poor career support and deeply entrenched sexism are blamed for keeping women at home.

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Tokyo city assemblyman Akihiro Suzuki bows to his female counterpart Ayaka Shiomura in apology at Tokyo Metropolitan City Hall on Monday, June 23. (AP)

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