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LDP lawmaker Sugita's 'productivity' claims show other side of eugenics coin: experts

Coverage of LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita's comments about the "productivity" of sexual minorities is seen in this screen capture taken from the official Twitter account of Qatari satellite broadcaster Al Jezeera's online news media "AJ+."

After claiming sexual minorities such as those in the LGBT community are "unproductive" in an article published in a monthly magazine, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker Mio Sugita has faced a barrage of criticism, including experts pointing out that her ideology is similar to Nazism or that of the alleged perpetrator of the Sagamihara murders of those with disabilities. The Mainichi Shimbun explores the dangers of measuring the value of a person by their "productivity."

In the article in "Shincho 45" titled, "Support for 'LGBT' is excessive," Sugita, a member of the House of Representative, writes, "Can the use of tax money for LGBT couples gain public support? They don't have children, therefore they are not productive."

Online, her claims were quickly criticized as "Nazi eugenic ideology" among other comments, and thousands flocked to LDP headquarters to participate in a protest calling for Sugita's resignation. International media outlets scrambled to report on the story, with the British newspaper The Independent running the headline "Japanese politician under fire for claiming LGBT couples are 'unproductive.'"

"Sugita's stance of viewing sexual minorities as a problem is identical to the Nazis," said Seijo University professor emeritus of German history Kazuko Kibata, who has long researched such topics such as the connection between Nazism and medicine. In Nazi Germany, roughly 100,000 gay men who did not "produce" children were arrested on the grounds that their sexual orientation went against the government's pronatalist policies aiming to raise a large number of tough soldiers. Roughly half were sent to places like concentration camps. At the same time, forced sterilization laws were created based on the eugenic ideology of preventing the birth of people with disabilities or other "inferior" genetics, and an estimated 400,000 people became victims of the surgeries.

Of Sugita's claim that taxpayer money should not be used to support LGBT and other sexual minorities, Kibata commented, "It reminds me of the fact that during the Great Depression, which gave momentum to the rise of the Nazi party, the sterilization policy was considered as a way to lighten the economic burden of social welfare programs for people with disabilities."

Keiko Toshimitsu, a visiting researcher at the Research Center for Ars Vivendi at Ritsumeikan University, said, "(Sugita's) remark does not stop at smearing sexual minorities." Toshimitsu has been exploring the issue of forced sterilizations that continued even after the end of World War II in Japan under the eugenic protection law (1948-1996). "The view also shows contempt for those who are unable to have children and erases the choice for others to live out their lives without having children."

Forced sterilizations in Japan were a crime committed by the state based on discrimination that violently robbed people with disabilities and others of the choice to have children or not. Toshimitsu continued, "It may seem that Sugita's attack on sexual minorities for not having children is unrelated (to the eugenic protection law), but they both share the fact that they infringe on the rights of individuals to make decisions about things like sex and reproduction, and are just two sides of the same coin."

Meanwhile, Michie Hiura, who opened Japan's first facility where those with severe physical and intellectual disabilities could commute to instead of live, said, "I get the same feeling from Sugita's words and those of Satoshi Uematsu," who is accused of killing 19 people at a facility for people with disabilities in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 2016. "Uematsu justified the murders by calling people with intellectual disabilities 'those without human souls,' deciding arbitrarily that they did not have hearts. Isn't Sugita also just demeaning those who don't fit into her narrow view of the world?"

By interacting with people with disabilities, able-bodied Hiura says she was able to realize her own immaturity and the limits of her imagination. That, she feels, cannot be measured by economic indices. She believes that interacting with people who have different ways of thinking and different lifestyles from one's own is the key to living a fruitful life.

"We can't live a rich life in a society where people, in their heart of hearts, kill others who deviate from the mold they have envisioned," commented Hiura.

(Japanese original by Haruka Udagawa, General Digital News Center, and Motomi Kusakabe, Hokkaido News Department)

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