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Vice-minister Mio Sugita says 'life-threatening' female discrimination nonexistent in Japan

Mio Sugita, parliamentary vice-minister for internal affairs and communications, answers questions from Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura during a meeting of the House of Councillors' Committee on Budget on Nov. 30, 2022. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Mio Sugita, parliamentary vice-minister for internal affairs and communications, said on Nov. 30 that there was no life-threatening discrimination against women in Japan, while elaborating on her controversial 2014 remark that flatly denied the existence of discrimination against women in Japanese society.

    "I meant that there is no terrible discrimination against women that could threaten their lives," Sugita told a House of Councillors budget committee session on Nov. 30, in response to a question posed by Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura.

    Sugita, a House of Representatives member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, had told a Committee on Cabinet meeting in the Diet in 2014, "There is no discrimination against women in Japan."

    Her Nov. 30 explanation on the 2014 statement drew criticism from attendees at the meeting, with one opposition lawmaker pointing out, "Domestic violence can threaten victims' lives."

    Separately, Sugita retracted a remark she made in a 2016 contribution to the Sankei Shimbun news site. In the contribution she criticized moves seeking more day care centers and use of separate surnames for married couples, describing them as "driven by the Comintern (an international organization of communist parties) to destroy Japanese families."

    "I could not confirm the facts, and it was an ill-considered remark," Sugita told the Nov. 30 budget panel session.

    Sugita made yet another controversial comment in the past in connection with victims of sexual violence, saying, "Women can tell lies as much as they want." Regarding this comment, she said, "I had no misogynistic intentions."

    Sugita has also come under fire for labeling sexual minorities as "unproductive" for not having children.

    CDP lawmaker Shiomura demanded that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida dismiss Sugita over these remarks, but Kishida ruled out the possibility of sacking the vice-minister, saying, "She's the right person in the right place. As long as she is a member of the government, I want her to fulfill her duties in line with government policies."

    (Japanese original by Motomi Kusakabe, Political News Department)

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