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PM Abe silent amid LDP lawmaker's sexual minority 'productivity' scandal

Mio Sugita (Mainichi)

Ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) House of Representatives lawmaker Mio Sugita's claim in a magazine article that sexual minorities were not "productive" has stirred up both support and criticism within the LDP, but the stance of party president and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remains unclear.

Sugita tweeted on her own account that she had received support from party members at the "level of Cabinet ministers," but later deleted it. LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai expressed his stance that her comments were not an issue, but lower house LDP lawmaker Shunsuke Takei tweeted that her comments were "simple hate." Former LDP secretary-general Shigeru Ishiba also criticized Sugita's comments during a speech on July 28.

While protesters are gathering outside of LDP headquarters calling for Sugita's resignation as a lawmaker, the man at the very top of the party, Shinzo Abe, has remained silent.

During the October 2017 House of Representatives election, Sugita moved from the Party for Japanese Kokoro to the LDP, and was placed at the top of the party's list of candidates running only on the proportional representation ticket in the Chugoku bloc. Commenting on the process behind the decision, journalist Yoshiko Sakurai said during an online program last September, "Mr. Abe said that 'Sugita is amazing,' so (LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Koichi) Hagiuda enthusiastically invited her to join the party."

As the leader of the party, what does Prime Minister Abe think of Sugita's claims and her qualifications as a member of the Diet? Additionally, is what Sakurai said true? The Mainichi Shimbun contacted Abe's office on the issue, but received the reply, "We refrain from answering questions of this type." To account for all possibilities, Sakurai's office was also contacted for comment. An email saying, "Sakurai is currently not feeling well due to a summer cold, and additionally, cannot make time to reply to your inquiry," was returned.

Political scientist and Tokyo Institute of Technology professor Takeshi Nakajima said of Sugita, "She is close to the right-wing group 'Nippon Kaigi (The Japan Conference),' which strongly favors a paternalistic view of what constitutes a family. I would venture to say that the idea behind her comments this time is less her own, but rather that of the Nippon Kaigi." He continued, "We cannot forget that Prime Minister Abe, whose ideology is also close to that of the Nippon Kaigi, was the one who selected Sugita and got her to run in the election. There is a possibility that Abe also subconsciously shares these views."

Nakajima said that the current scandal surrounding Sugita is reminiscent of comments made in 2001 by then Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, such as, "Women who continue to live even after losing their reproductive ability is not only a waste, but a crime," which also attracted outrage.

"In later interviews, Ishihara revealed his worries about the after-effects of the stroke he had. Panicked by the physical deterioration of his own body, he kept saying it was 'terrifying,'" Nakajima continued. "His own existence was becoming that of someone 'unnecessary,' and it seemed as if he was being killed by his own ideology. There is always the possibility that when you decide that someone is 'unnecessary,' that you may be passing judgment on your future self."

"Saying things like 'it serves you right' about people like Ishihara only adds to the violent discourse," emphasized Nakajima. "Our society must avoid the vicious circle created by the theory of taking personal responsibility while also saving people like him."

(Japanese original by Haruka Udagawa, General Digital News Center)

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