Japan’s paternity leave lawmaker to resign over sex scandal

Japanese MP stirs debate over paternity leave

A Japanese politician who made headlines over his plans to become the country’s first member of parliament to take paternity leave says he intends to resign over a sex scandal.

Lawmaker Kensuke Miyazaki’s declarations that he wanted to do more at home had made him a symbol for efforts to shake up rigid attitudes to gender roles in Japan. But he shattered that reputation Friday by announcing he had an extra-marital encounter with a woman just days before his wife gave birth to their son.

“I sincerely apologize that my inappropriate act caused tremendous trouble to a lot of people,” Miyazaki said at a news conference. He bowed deeply in apology before the cameras at the event.

A member of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, Miyazaki drew attention late last year by saying he wanted to take paternity leave after his son’s birth — something no Japanese member of parliament had done before.

Miyazaki’s decision sparked a backlash from critics — including from within his own party — who said duty to government was more important than family time.

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His wife, Megumi Kaneko, who is also a lawmaker, gave birth to their son a week ago.

New fathers in Japan can take up to a year of paternity leave, but less than 2% of them actually do so, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Miyazaki told CNN last month he wanted to stir up the debate over the traditionally defined roles of men and women in the home. Experts say men taking a greater role in child care enables women to participate more in the labor market — a potential boost for countries like Japan that have shrinking workforces.

But after this week’s revelations, Miyazaki has more immediate concerns.

“I’m not the one to decide about divorce,” he said Friday. “If possible, I would like to continue to live with my wife.”

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