A Japenese politician said the council had not taken kindly to her since the November incident because their “outdated attitudes had been exposed and criticized in public.”

Yuka Ogata, a Japanese politician, was in November 2017 asked to vacate the assembly chamber for bringing her 7-month-old baby to the chamber. She has once again been thrown out of the chamber for sucking on a cough lozenge.  Ogata said it is obvious her colleagues are trying to frustrate her and punish her for pushing family-friendly council reform.

Ogata, an assemblywoman from Kumamoto city in south-western Japan was caught chewing on a cough drop while addressing the assembly. Chairman Shinya Kutsuki observed she had something in her mouth and asked her what it was. Ogata said it was a medicated lozenge that she was sucking to soothe her throat since she had a cold. She added she sucked on the cough drop because it would be unpleasant for her to cough repeatedly in the assembly, thereby possibly disrupting proceedings.

Permission to Breastfeed in Chamber or Set Up Nursery for Children Turned Down

Kutsuki suspended the session and council members decided to form an independent committee to see what to do with Ogata. The ad hoc committee decided it was best to draft an apology letter which Ogata would be required to read out to the council. But the politician refused to read out the apology letter written on her behalf.

The committee met again and it was resolved that Ogata would be suspended from the chamber for the rest of the business day. The lozenge-eating business held up council activity for eight hours on Friday.

Kazufumi Onishi, mayor of Kumamoto, said it was not proper that a “responsible adult” would address the council with a cough drop in their mouth. He added Ogata must of necessity admit she was at fault.

But Ogata sees things differently. She said disrupting the assembly with her incessant coughs would be more terrible than sucking on a cough drop while speaking. She noted that council members had changed towards her since the November incident when she brought her baby to the chamber. She recalled she had earlier asked for permission to breastfeed him in the chamber but this request was turned down.

She further said her suggestion that a daycare nursery be set up somewhere in the assembly building for children of visitors, staff and councilors was also rebuffed.

Ogata Said Her Goal Is To Improve Childcare and Make Workplaces More Family-Friendly

As if to get back at her, the council in March closed the chamber to any non-members.

“Many of the other councilors have openly criticized me, implying that I’m not a good mother, or claiming that many citizens think it’s outrageous to provide daycare services for council members with young children,” Ogata explained.

She said the council had not taken kindly to her since the November incident because their “outdated attitudes had been exposed and criticized in public.” According to her, her aim for bringing her baby to the assembly was not only because the assembly building lacked a nursery, but to make the council more reflective of what ordinary people pass through every day in their daily lives.

Bringing the baby to the assembly would have served to highlight what many Japanese mothers face trying to balance work with raising children – but the council chose to interpret it differently, Ogata said. She said her goal since she became a councilor was to “improve childcare provision and make Japan’s working environment more family-friendly.”

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