Ahead of the fifth anniversary on May 24 of the implementation of the Ainu policy promotion law, calls are growing for the introduction of penalties for discriminatory remarks against the Ainu Indigenous people, while the government is cautious about penalties.

The calls strengthened after a series of such discriminatory remarks by Mio Sugita, a House of Representatives lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

In a post on her blog in 2016, Sugita voiced her discomfort with a woman in traditional Ainu garb appearing at a U.N. conference. This was recognized as a human rights violation by the Sapporo Legal Affairs Bureau in September last year.

She also repeatedly made controversial remarks, including about Ainu-related government projects.

The Ainu policy promotion law prohibits discrimination against the Ainu people but does not include penalties for discrimination. It has a supplement stipulating that necessary measures will be taken after a review of the status of implementation five years after the law took effect.

Jeffry Gayman, representative of the Citizens' Alliance for the Examination of Ainu Policy, a group comprising members including Ainu people and scholars, argued that the existing law is not effective at all.

Opposition lawmakers are calling for swift action. Shunichi Mizuoka, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan in the House of Councilors, said in a parliamentary meeting in February that the government should immediately start considering revisions to the law. Another executive of the major opposition party said the government should take the issue seriously.

However, there is little momentum for law revisions within the government. A government official said creating penalties for discrimination against the Ainu people would cause consistency problems with actions against other discriminatory behavior.

"Complaints of defamation and contempt are possible under the current law," the official said.