Japan ‘paternity leave’ lawmaker quits

LDP lawmakers Megumi Kaneko and Kensuke MiyazakiImage copyright
Kensuke Miyazaki

Image caption

Lawmakers Kensuke Miyazaki (R) and Megumi Kaneko (L) had sparked a debate on paternity leave

A Japanese politician who sparked a national discussion on paternity leave has quit, amid revelations that he had an affair while his wife was pregnant.

Kensuke Miyazaki apologised for “causing an uproar” and resigned at a news conference.

Mr Miyazaki made waves last month when he became the first ever male lawmaker to request paternity leave in Japan.

It triggered widespread debate on whether politicians should be allowed to do so.

Read more: Should a male politician be allowed to take paternity leave?

Japanese tabloid Shukan Bunshun had earlier this week published a photo of Mr Miyazaki with a woman, said to be a bikini model and professional kimono dresser, leaving his home in Kyoto.

The tabloid said the photo was taken days before his wife, fellow lawmaker Megumi Kaneko, gave birth on 5 February.

Both Mr Miyazaki and Ms Kaneko are members of the ruling Liberal Democrat Party.

‘Duty to serve’

On Friday, Mr Miyazaki confirmed he had an affair and said he was stepping down.

He said he met the woman when she helped him and other lawmakers dress up in ceremonial kimonos for the opening of Japan’s parliament, known as the Diet, on 4 January.

“I remember meeting her three times (after that). The last time I saw her was in Kyoto. We don’t contact each other anymore,” he said

“I’ve explained everything to my wife. I deeply regret doing such a cruel thing to her just after giving birth… I sincerely apologise for causing an uproar,” he told reporters as he bowed towards them.

The admission drew immediate sharp criticism online, with many Japanese condemning his actions, and also reignited the debate on paternity leave.

Mr Miyazaki had told the BBC at the time that he wanted to apply for paternity leave to “set an example and cause a bit of a stir”.

It did cause a stir with some saying that as an elected lawmaker he had a duty to continue serving the people.

Japan has one of the most generous entitlements for fathers among developed countries, but only 2.3% of fathers took paternity leave last year.

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