Yuka Ogata, a member of the city assembly in Kumamoto, Japan, had been asking whether she could bring her baby to work ever since she got pregnant last year.
But after getting the runaround — the secretariat reportedly insisted she hire a babysitter — she decided to go ahead and bring her 7-month-old son anyway. On November 22, the day she brought him, male politicians surrounded her, questioning the child's presence, according to The Asahi Shimbun.
Finally, she left, escorted by Chairman Yoshitomo Sawada, dropped off her son with a friend, and returned alone. The assembly meeting started 40 minutes behind schedule.
Today, the Kumamoto city assembly issued a written warning to Ogata, saying she broke the rules, according to The Japan Times. Visitors "are not allowed to enter the chamber during a session under any circumstances," according to the rules, though it says nothing specifically about members' children.
"I wanted to highlight the difficulties facing women who are trying to juggle their careers and raise children," Ogata said after the session, reported Asahi Shimbun.
Sawada said that the secretariat will "hear her request again and discuss the issue at the assembly steering committee."
Ogata was elected to the assembly in April 2015, and also has a 4-year-old daughter.
Japan ranks 114th out of 144 countries when it comes to gender equality, which is one of the lowest rankings among industrialized nations, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum. (The U.S. is in 49th place.) Both mothers and fathers are entitled to childcare leave until the child turns 1, and receive two-thirds of their salary for the first six months of leave and 50% after six months. According to a government survey conducted in 2015, 31.8% of full-time employees went back to work within a year of giving birth. But while fathers get the same amount of leave, only 2% of them chose to take it in 2015, according to a report by Business Insider.
Bringing babies to work has been a much-discussed topic as of late, with more companies instituting pro-baby policies. But mothers, including lawmakers, are still running into discrimination. In June of this year, Australian senator Larissa Waters made news for being the first politician to deliver a speech while breastfeeding. While the Australian parliament changed its rules to allow female lawmakers to nurse their babies while in the chamber, she still got a considerable amount of criticism on Twitter and otherwise.
Women are changing what it means to be a mother who works, and we applaud Ogata for taking the initiative.
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