The start of a Kumamoto City municipal assembly session was delayed by over 40 minutes on Wednesday after an assemblywoman brought her infant son into the chamber, causing a major stir among male politicians.
Kumamoto assemblywoman Yuka Ogata, 42, arrived at around 10 a.m. for the start of the session and took her seat, carrying her 7-month-old son in her arms, local media reported. After she sat down, male assembly members, including Chairman Yoshitomo Sawada, surrounded her and asked why she had brought her son with her. The discussion went on for several minutes.
According to the assembly regulations, visitors are not permitted to enter the chamber during a session. They have to either sit in the gallery or wait in another room. However, the rules do not say whether babies are visitors.
Sawada requested that the baby be removed from the chamber. Ogata, however, did not comply and was then asked to further discuss the matter in a separate room.
Ogata returned to the assembly chamber alone, after asking a friend to take care of her son and the session got under way 40 minutes late. Sawada began by apologizing for the delay, but an unidentified assemblyman was heard to say he was not the one who should be apologizing.
Following the session, Ogata said: "I want the assembly to be a place where women can actively participate."
This was Ogata’s first appearance at the assembly after giving birth to her child in April. After she learned about her pregnancy, she had requested the assembly secretariat to allow members to bring their children to sessions or open a daycare facility in the building in support of parents raising children. Her request, however, was not addressed.
Ogata is a graduate of George Mason University in the U.S. and worked for the United Nations in Yemen. She also has a four-year-old daughter.© Japan Today