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A provincial Japanese politician has landed himself in hot water after suggesting that deliberately punctured condoms be distributed to married couples to counter the country's dwindling birth rate, local media reported on Friday.
Municipal assembly member Tomonaga Osada received a stern warning and was forced to apologise after making the bizarre proposal, which triggered a flurry of phone calls from enraged locals.
"I cannot deny my comments were disgraceful," a contrite Osada told the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. "I'm sorry."
Osada's controversial remarks were made at a regular assembly meeting last month, when he also reportedly suggested handing out locally grown Japanese yams — said to boost sexual stamina.
"I suggested the idea because I thought it would make people feel this city hall was a nice and friendly place," added Osada, talking to Japanese broadcaster NTV. "I had no intention to criticise or disrespect people who cannot have a baby."
The incident comes after sexist heckling by governing party members aimed at a Tokyo assemblywoman during a debate about raising children made headline news last month and provoked widespread condemnation.
Tokyo assemblywoman Ayaka Shiomura was reduced to tears last month after being repeatedly taunted by city administration members, who jeered at her: "Aren't you able to have a baby?"
Osada, 49, is currently serving his third term as a member of the assembly in Shinshiro, a city with a population of around 49,000.
Assembly chair Shogo Natsume told reporters the comments "lacked dignity" in issuing his reprimand, adding that the remarks would be deleted from the record of the June 18 meeting. Japan has one of the world's lowest birthrates and Tokyo is struggling to contain the spiralling social welfare costs of a rapidly ageing society.