• Kyodo

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A gaffe-prone lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) admitted Thursday she had said women might make false reports of sexual violence — a remark that has sparked criticism as being insulting to victims, and a protest movement online.

LDP House of Representatives member Mio Sugita, who had denied making the remark, wrote in a blog post Thursday that she had said “Women can tell lies as much as they want,” during a party gathering last Friday about the government’s support program for sexual violence victims.

“I am sorry for offending people by giving the impression only women lie when lying is not restricted to a gender,” she wrote, while reiterating that she had not intended to discriminate against women. Sugita also said she would not step down as a lawmaker.

The admission came a day after LDP policy chief Hakubun Shimomura admonished her over the matter. Flower Demo, a group organizing a movement against sex crimes, has collected more than 120,000 signatures in an online petition seeking Sugita’s resignation and an apology from her over the remark..

“Sugita’s statement is inexcusable hate speech that constitutes a form of ‘second rape’ of victims of sexual violence, and which falls seriously short of the sensitivity demanded by the international community,” the group said in a statement.

The LDP’s response has been somewhat slow and lukewarm, taking five days to issue a verbal warning without penalties. Seiko Noda, LDP executive deputy secretary general, turned down a request for a meeting on Tuesday to receive the signatures from Flower Demo members.

Mio Sugita, a Lower House lawmaker from the Liberal Democratic Party, speaks to reporters Wednesday at the party headquarters in Tokyo. | KYODO
Mio Sugita, a Lower House lawmaker from the Liberal Democratic Party, speaks to reporters Wednesday at the party headquarters in Tokyo. | KYODO

Such behavior has prompted criticism from opposition parties and questions from some LDP members.

Seiko Hashimoto, minister in charge of gender equality and an LDP House of Councilors member, said Tuesday she found Sugita’s remark “very regrettable” and that the ruling party “should have taken appropriate measures.”

Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the major opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said Thursday, “Her qualities as a lawmaker are in question. I wonder if the LDP should retain her as a member lawmaker.”

A Cabinet Office survey in 2017 showed one in every 20 people have been forced to have sexual intercourse against their will and 56.1 percent of them have not told anyone about it.

It is not the first time Sugita has come under fire for making discriminatory comments.

In 2018, the lawmaker faced criticism for saying in a magazine article that the government should not support same-sex couples because they cannot bear offspring and thus were not “productive.”

Sugita was also sued in August for damages by Shiori Ito, a journalist and symbol of Japan’s #MeToo movement, for allegedly clicking the “like” icon on several tweets the journalist believes defamed her.

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