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LDP lawmaker Sugita sued by gender researchers for defamation

In this Sept. 20, 2018 file photo, Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Mio Sugita returns to her seat after voting in the party leadership election, at LDP headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Tatsuro Tamaki)

KYOTO -- Ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker Mio Sugita is being sued for defamation by four gender studies researchers for alleged repeated public claims they were misusing public funds.

Osaka University professor Kazue Muta, Doshisha University professor Yayo Okano, Osaka Prefecture University professor Kumiko Ida, and Osaka City University associate professor Sakura Furukubo filed suit on Feb. 12 at the Kyoto District Court in this western Japan city demanding some 11 million yen in compensation. All four plaintiffs were part of the "Bridging and Networking between Academism and Activism in the pursuit of a Gender Equal Society" project, which ran from April 2014 to March 2018 and was partially funded by the government-backed Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

According to the filing, Sugita, a House of Representatives member, repeatedly stated on her Twitter account and during internet TV program appearances between March and July 2018 that the academics had misused research subsidies to support social activists. The claim was over a symposium the researchers had organized in 2016.

The plaintiffs also accuse Sugita of making false and defamatory claims they had used research grant money to fund a video called "Ianfu mondai wa #MeToo da!" (The comfort women issue is also a #MeToo issue!), which they made and released last May. Sugita allegedly said, "They made that (film) using research grant funds after their financial support period was over," and, "They are damaging national interests."

Sugita was slammed for discrimination against sexual minorities in July last year after she wrote an article for now-defunct monthly magazine "Shincho 45" titled "The level of support for 'LGBT' is too high." In the piece, Sugita stated that LGBT people "don't have children, and therefore are not productive" members of Japanese society. She added, "Why can't we just stick to two sexes -- male and female?" and, "If we recognize different sexual interests, then it will lead to calls for allowing marriage between siblings, marriages between parents and children, or even marriages to pets or machinery."

(Japanese original by Masateru Sawaki, Kyoto Bureau)

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