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LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita faces backlash after describing LGBT people as ‘unproductive’

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker has drawn a fierce backlash after labeling the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community “unproductive” in terms of childbirth, and warning that a society that accepts same-sex relationships risks “increasing unhappy people.”

Junior lawmaker Mio Sugita is facing nationwide criticism after contributing an article to the latest issue of conservative magazine Shincho 45 questioning what she perceives to be Japanese media’s recent trend toward favorable coverage of LGBT-related issues.

In it, Sugita argued that there is no justification for efforts by the state and municipalities to invest taxpayers’ money into policies supporting same-sex couples because “these men and women don’t bear children — in other words, they are ‘unproductive.’ ”

She went on in the article to recall her adolescence, the bulk of which she said she had spent being surrounded by female classmates in an all-girl school system.

In such an environment, it was not uncommon for girls around her to fantasize about becoming romantically involved with each other, she wrote. But they would soon outgrow that phase and move on to have “normal” lives by marrying husbands, Sugita wrote in the article.

The recent media tendency toward embracing same-sex relationships in the name of diversity, she said, “could make people capable of enjoying normal romance and getting married believe that they have an option of going homosexual, and as a result risk increasing (the number of) unhappy people.”

“A society deprived of ‘common sense’ and ‘normalcy’ is destined to lose ‘order’ and eventually collapse. I don’t want Japan to be a society like this,” she concluded in her four-page article.

The nation’s LGBT community was quick to lambaste Sugita’s remarks.

The Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation issued a statement pointing out that Sugita’s description of LGBT people as abnormal disregards the LDP’s own acknowledgment of the fact that many sexual minorities suffer from being forced into the “norm” imposed by society.

Her assertion that LGBT people are not discriminated against in society, it said, also belies a 2017 Cabinet Office survey suggesting 49 percent of the public think gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals have been targeted by “discriminatory remarks.”

A member of the Toshima Ward Assembly, Taiga Ishikawa — one of Japan’s first openly gay politicians — said that given Sugita’s role as a member of the ruling party, her remarks “significantly tarnish Japan’s reputation” ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

“Homosexuality is not the definition of unhappiness,” he said. “It’s discriminatory remarks like Sugita’s that make us unhappy.”

When contacted by The Japan Times on Tuesday, Sugita’s office in Tokyo said she was not available for comment. On Monday, Sugita tweeted that “someone claiming to be gay” had emailed a death threat to her office, which she said prompted her to delete all her previous tweets on her latest debacle.

In fact, Sugita is no stranger to controversy.

In her recent appearance in a BBC documentary examining the high-profile case of the alleged rape of journalist Shiori Ito, Sugita blamed Ito for making “clear errors as a woman” by drinking too much in the presence of a man.

Being relatively new to the Japanese political arena, Sugita, currently in her second term, could not be described as a heavyweight and has held no ministerial portfolio.

At a news conference Tuesday, LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai didn’t support Sugita’s comments or criticize her, according to Kyodo News. “Different people have different views, let alone their political positions,” he said. But Nikai stressed that it’s important to realize a society where diversity is accepted.