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TOKYO (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Japanese government is getting heat for urging women to have more children and raise them themselves.
Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), ignited a social media frenzy on Sunday when he said it could be "unwelcome" for men to raise children.
"Children need an environment where they can stay with their mothers," he insisted. "[If] you ask infants under three which parent they like more, the answer should be Mama, even though there are no firm statistics to support it."
Yukio Edano, head of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, slammed Hagiuda for his comments Tuesday, calling them "intolerable."
"There are many people who cannot give birth to children despite wanting to and there are many single-father families," Edano declared. "Don't they notice these facts?"
Hagiuda's comments followed another LDP member's remarks earlier this month. MP Kanji Kato told a faction of the LDP on May 10 that he "always tell[s] brides and grooms at wedding parties that I would like them to have three or more children."
"We need three or more children from those people to make up for couples who cannot bear a child no matter what they do," continued Kato.
He backed up his statements, explaining the rationale behind his remarks is Japan's historic low birth rate.
"Improving the birthrate is the most important issue facing our nation," he said. "That is all."
A number of female MPs blasted Kato for his comments, labeling them sexist. This prompted him to back down and retract his statements the same day.
"I apologize if my words gave the wrong impression," he said in a statement. "Although I never intended to discriminate against women, I retract the remarks I made because they could have been interpreted as such."
The percentage of children in Japan ranks lowest among 32 countries, with a population of at least 40 million people. Currently, children make up 12.3 percent of the total population, and the fertility rate is 1.42 births per woman. Replacement-level fertility is 2.1 children per woman.
As of April 1, there were 15.53 million children under the age of 15, which is a drop of 170,000 from last year. In 2017, 981,000 babies were born in Japan, which is the lowest recorded number since 1899.
Japan's population collapse is owing to increasing numbers of Japanese citizens rejecting marriage or dating and choosing the single life. Last year, there were only 607,000 marriages recorded, which is down from 13,000 the previous year.
Contraception usage and abortion acceptance remain high within marriages. Abortion was legalized in 1948, based on a proposal from the Socialist Party, and recorded over 38 million deaths between 1949 and 2015.
And it is estimated that 16,500 were sterilized without their consent between 1948 and 1996, with the adoption of the Eugenics Protection Act. The law was designed to prevent the birth of "inferior" children modeled on similar laws in Nazi Germany.
Hagiuda and Kato's remarks echoed those of Hakuo Yanagisawa, the former minister of health, who said in 2007 that women have a duty to increase the population.
"Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can do is ask them to do their best per head ... although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines," emphasized Yanagisawa.