TOKYO -- Taro Aso, Japan's deputy prime minister and minister for finance, was crowned with having made the most offensive sexist statement by a politician for a second consecutive year on Jan. 11, after remarks he made about the falling number of births in Japan received the most votes in an online poll to identify the most distasteful utterance.
The poll, which started in 2017 and just completed its third edition, is run by NO to all sexist public speeches (NOASEPS), a civil group whose members include Mari Miura, a professor of politics at Tokyo's Sophia University.
On the group's website, voters chose between eight different statements by eight different politicians. Each voter could select up to two candidates, and ballots were collected from Dec. 30, 2019, to Jan. 9, 2020. The latest vote saw a significant rise in the number of participants, with 3,820 taking part, around 1,800 more than in the previous poll. This year, a total of 7,593 votes were cast.
The results put Aso in first place, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in second, and House of Representatives member Katsuei Hirasawa in third.
Aso received 2,588 nods to reach the top spot for the following statement, given on Feb. 3, 2019, at a public policy report meeting in Fukuoka Prefecture: "(The increase in Japan's life expectancy) is a good thing isn't it? It's great. There are many strange people who say all these people getting older is a bad thing, but they're mistaken. The real problem is those who are not having children."
Among the reasons some people provided for choosing Aso were that he was seen to be abdicating responsibility as a politician by trying to place culpability for low birthrates on people who aren't having children due to government policy failures. Others wrote that he appeared not to have reflected on many of his previous problematic statements.
Aso topped the 2018 vote for comments including a series of remarks over sexual harassment by a top Finance Ministry bureaucrat, in which Aso asked whether the perpetrator had no human rights, and another comment in which he said it would be better if all journalists dispatched to the Finance Ministry were men.
Prime Minister Abe came in second with 1,765 votes for a statement he made at an election rally in Niigata Prefecture on July 16, 2019: "Fathers, invite your lovers, and mothers, find an old flame, and please bring them with you to the ballot box."
Lower house member Hirasawa, who is also a member of the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), managed to earn 866 votes and third place for remarks at a gathering in Yamanashi Prefecture on Jan. 3, 2019: "Same-sex marriage of a man to a man, a marriage of a woman to a woman, it's fine, because if you criticize it, it becomes a big problem. So of course, it's fine. But I will say, if we all ended up like these people the country would be finished."
The voting field in this round also enquired about participants' gender and their sexual orientation, and found that the final results changed depending on how different groups identify themselves.
NOASEPS released a statement saying, "It's important to keep in mind that there is a diversity in the way different people from different groups see the world." It continued, "The concentration of votes in first and second place has been influenced by the fact that those utterances were made by the administration's top two people. Although they may have thought that these things would be favorably accepted when said in an area where their supporters have congregated, they are signs of deep-rooted issues. There must be changes to a political culture that accommodates these kinds of statements."
(Japanese original by Satoko Nakagawa, Integrated Digital News Center)