The Japanese government’s top spokesman has come under fire after saying that women should “contribute” to the country by having lots of children, the Telegraph reported. Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary, made the comments Tuesday while speaking on a Fuji TV news show.
“With their marriage, I am hoping that mothers will contribute to their country by feeling like they want to have more children,” he said. “Please bear many children,” he added, in reference to the recent marriage of Japanese celebrities Masaharu Fukuyama and Kazue Fukiishi, which he said he hoped would serve as a model for other Japanese couples.
Reporters asked the politician about his comments at a press conference, where Suga said he did not mean to imply that women have a duty to bear children.
“It’s obvious that getting married and having children is a matter of personal freedom,” he said, according to Jiji Press.
When a reporter pointed out that Suga’s remarks sounded similar to Japan’s wartime policy of encouraging women to bear children to support the nation’s military efforts, Suga disagreed, according to Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun AJW.
The Japanese government wants to encourage women to get fertility treatments, Suga also said in the press conference. The country’s declining birth rate has contributed to concerns about its aging population and what its demographics will look like in the future.
“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, too, made a comment that effectively supports people undergoing fertility treatment,” Suga said during the conference.
Suga’s comments came after Abe told the United Nations General Assembly Sunday that he would work to promote women’s empowerment programs in Japan. This is especially important for the country because it will be a topic raised when Japan hosts the Group of Seven industrialized nations for a summit in May.
“Japan will push the agenda on women forward vigorously when it holds the presidency of a G-7 summit next year,” Abe told the U.N.