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Japan MP sparks backlash by branding LGBTI couples “unproductive”

Japan MP sparks backlash by branding LGBTI couples “unproductive”

Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade

A politician in Japan has caused an uproar after describing LGBTI couples as “unproductive” and questioned whether it is”appropriate to spend taxpayer money on them”.

Mio Sugita, a member of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, wrote in a magazine article “these men and women don’t bear children – in other words, they are ‘unproductive’”.

In the same article, Sugita, 51, also claimed that social acceptance of same-sex relationships risked causing greater unhappiness in society, The Independent and CNN reported. She also stated that this could potentially risk the collapse of society if it was “deprived of common sense and normalcy.”  

The lower house MP also claimed that if the media embraced same-sex couples, this would risk encouraging people who are “capable of enjoying normal romance and getting married” to “believe that they have an option of going homosexual”.

Japanese politicians were quick to condemn Sugita’s article. Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama tweeting “You don’t need to make a child for there to be love in the world. I want them (the LGBT community) to live their lives with dignity.”

Taiga Ishikawa, one of Japan’s first openly gay politicians, also hit out at Sugito’s remarks, saying they “significantly tarnish Japan’s reputation” in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “Homosexuality is not the definition of unhappiness. It’s discriminatory remarks like Sugita’s that make us unhappy,” he added. 

A history of controversy

Sugito is no stranger to controversy, and has expressed anti-LGBTI sentiments in the past. The MP previously caused outrage following a talk-show interview from 2015, where she said “If we recognize different sexual orientations, that will lead to calls to allow marriage between siblings, marriage between parents and children, or even marriage to pets or machines.”

Earlier this week, the MP claimed to have received a  death threat in an email from a “self-described gay individual,” and that she had reported the matter to the police. 

There have been improvements to LGBTI rights in Japan in recent years. Earlier this year, same-sex couples were able to register their relationship in Fukuoka, one of Japan’s biggest cities.

However, understanding of LGBTI people is still not widespread in Japan. LGBTI issues and characters are often portrayed negatively in the Japanese media, and a high number of LGBTI students reported having experienced bulling by their peers in a 2017 survey.

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