Sign and share the petition at this link: https://chng.it/H26whXf6c9
In solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQIA+ communities, survivors of sexual assault, and other minoritized individuals living in Japan, CEMiPoS demands the immediate removal of House of Representatives member Sugita Mio. The hate speaker Sugita has made numerous harmful comments against the aforementioned communities, supported discriminatory policies in collaboration with the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, and invited discriminatory sentiment among the public through her hate speech.
*CONTENT WARNING: This text includes hate speech quoted from Sugita. We have tried to limit quotations to only that information which is necessary to demonstrate our arguments against Sugita, but many of these redacted quotes are still painful to read. Please skip to section “Responses from Impacted Communities” to avoid these quotations*
Her Discriminatory Comments
Against Ainu and Ethnically Minoritized Women
- CEMiPoS highlights that Sugita perpetuates legacies of Japanese colonialism through her discrimination, particularly that against Ainu, Zainichi Korean, and Buraku women, as well as surviving comfort women. In 2016, a group of Ainu, Zainichi Korean, and Buraku women attended the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW) to bring public attention to the multiple and intersecting discriminations they face as women and as members of discriminated groups in Japan. Their goal was to develop serious action plans to eliminate the discrimination they face, because state representatives like Sugita were not addressing this problem. Instead of following their call to action, Sugita secretly took pictures of the women and referred to them as “‘コスプレおばさん,” a derogatory term meaning “cosplaying old women”, in a blog post titled “Shame on Japan”. Sugita’s intention was not only to insult these minoritized women, including Tahara Ryoko, who leads Menoko Mosmos (the Ainu Women’s Association), but to deny the existence of Indigenous and Zainichi Koreans in contemporary Japan. Her intention extended beyond discrimination, towards extermination. When her statement was presented to the Diet as hate speech during the November 30 and December 2 Budget Committee meetings, she tried to deflect the accusations by deleting the post “Shame on Japan”, and by offering a perfunctory apology. She claimed that she never intended to discriminate against anyone. This claim has stunned the women she targeted, especially because the pictures taken and the hate speech proclaimed by Sugita are still being circulated on Twitter by other hate speakers. Every time a new hate speaker accesses and reposts Sugita’s posts, discrimination grows in Japanese society, and minoritized women must actively try to avoid exposure to these comments which cause them so much pain.
- With regards to Japan’s colonial abuses of Korean women, Sugita has dismissed Japanese American leaders who endorsed the comfort women memorial erected in Glendale, California as “typical left-wing extremists”, after they refused to validate her revisionist historical claim that Korean women were never forced into sexual slavery. “Since losing her re-election in December 2014, Sugita traveled around the world extensively to promote comfort women denial at the United Nations level.” On page 141 of the book Women Fight the History War, which Sugita co-authored with Keiko Kawasoe, Sugita proposes that “In America too, once people realized that comfort women memorials would be bombed no matter how many they build, they will not think about building another one. We should bomb every single memorial as it is built.”
Against Survivors of Sexual Assault
- Sugita’s sexism also targets women who have survived sexual assault. “In an interview for a BBC documentary that was aired in June 2018 about Japanese journalist Shiori Ito, who was sexually assaulted, Sugita commented, ‘In her case, there were clear errors on her part as a woman.’” Sugita is employing a typical tactic of victim blaming, which is an inaccurate, ineffective, and deeply hurtful way to talk about sexual assault. Rather than criticizing sexual assault itself, these types of comments defend perpetrators and seek to convince victims that their trauma was self-induced and not real. Sugita even criticized the government’s bare-minimum effort to legislate support for sexual assault survivors by saying, “‘Women can tell lies as much as they want,’ as if to say that claims by victims of sexual assault are tainted with lies…In an online survey held in February and March 2021 by ‘No to all sexist public speeches,’ a group consisting of university professors, this remark was selected as the most problematic comment about gender issues.”
Against LGBTQIA+ Individuals
- LGBTQIA+ individuals have also faced oppressive, homophobic attacks from Sugita. In August 2018, Sugita wrote an article titled "Support for 'LGBT' is excessive" for the monthly magazine "Shincho 45". “In the piece, she wrote, ‘Can the use of tax money for LGBT couples gain public support? They don't have children, therefore they are not productive.’” Sugita made even more disgusting remarks in the same piece, which we feel are too dangerous and harmful to restate here. Sugita’s comments are conscious reproductions of oppressive narratives historically used to eliminate LGBTQIA+ peoples. Particularly heinous is Sugita’s implication that LGBTQIA+ people do not deserve to love, have their basic human rights respected, and even live merely because of their sexuality. Sugita has promoted hate speech that deems LGBTQIA+ individuals as less than human.
Responses from Impacted Communities
Just as they have survived through historic discrimination, each of the communities which Sugita seeks to oppress have resisted. We describe and advocate their continued forms of resistance here.
Ainu, Zainichi Korean, and Buraku Women’s Responses
- The Minority Women’s Forum, which represents Ainu, Zainichi Korean, Buraku, and other minoritized women in Japan, has published a petition demanding that various steps be taken by Sugita and others to account for her hate speech. In this petition, women of these identities describe the intense pain, anger, grief, fear, and resolve to end discrimination that they feel when they must be exposed to hate speech. They describe hearing hate speech in the streets throughout their daily lives, and feeling further endangered when the government allows these hateful words to be repeated and to inform legislation that further oppresses them.
- The Minority Women’s Forum consistently highlights the negative impact of the secret pictures and hate speech that Sugita posted during the 2016 CEDAW. They describe how the CEDAW was supposed to be a safe space to be vulnerable and find strength among their peers, and how their safety was violated when Sugita published their activities, without consent, for anyone to see and degrade. One of the lasting harms of this violation is the hate speech that still circulates on social media, which these women try their best to avoid. These women are retraumatized every time they have to write a petition, or explain the situation of hate speech in Japan, because the Diet allows hate-speakers a seat at the table, and because our societies tolerate hate speech when we see it. Minoritized women should not have to repeatedly demand basic respect - those of us who are privileged need to demand that our governments prevent hate speech from happening in the first place.
- Recently, CEMiPoS Executive Director Hiroshi Maruyama talked to Tahara Ryoko, leader of the Ainu Women’s Association (Menoko Mosmos), about Sugita’s impact on her community. Tahara Ryoko was outraged by Sugita's defensive replies to an opposition party's questions in the Diet about her wrongdoings. Sugita didn't take those questions seriously, and she made no apologies for her remarks. The Japan Times reported on her retraction of past remarks, which Sugita continues to try to wipe from her record. Just this month, she deleted a few more ugly hate speeches against minority women.
LGBTQIA+ Communities’ Responses
- Soon after it was published, LGBTQIA+ individuals and their allies criticized Sugita for her extremely offensive 2018 article. The community’s resistance was strong, and brought about lasting change: in response to the protests staged outside the LDP headquarters, “‘Shincho 45’ was suspended after the October 2018 issue.”
- In the summer of 2018, LGBTQIA+ activists came together in protests against Sugita’s article and exclusionary Japanese notions of productivity. “Organized by a small group of activists on social media over the course of a few days, the demonstrations attracted thousands of participants and drew attention from both domestic and international media. In both contemporaneous and subsequent accounts, participants stressed that the protests were not simply a reaction to a single article by one politician, but rather sought to draw attention to larger issues surrounding homophobia and transphobia and to reframe these issues by situating them in the context of discourses over economic and demographic productivity (seisansei) in contemporary Japanese society.” Japanese society struggles with an oppressive narrative that LGBTQIA[+] peoples are a threat to society’s “demographic health”. Sugita reinforced this oppression when she claimed that LGBTQIA+ people should not have the same rights as cisgender heterosexual people, because she believes they do not produce children. This belief is untrue, it inhibits public learning about LGBTQIA+ partnerships and families, and it primes the public and their legislature to vote against any protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals and families. Additionally, the protestors in 2018 pointed out that this belief suggests that citizens can only be valued, respected, and protected if they produce something that the normative - or more specifically, conservative - societal authorities desire. This article offers more information about the origins and development of beliefs like Sugita’s, and the evolution of contesting human rights ideologies: https://apjjf.org/2022/2/Carland.html.
Sexual Assault Survivors and Allies’ Responses
- Photojournalist Natsuki Yasuda has questioned Sugita's appointment as a parliamentary vice-minister in solidarity with the sexual assault survivors whom she has harmed. “‘Sugita said during the press conference that she has never dismissed diversity nor discriminated against sexual minorities, but it has become clear that she doesn't understand the problem with her own remarks and she doesn't look back on them. Prime Minister Kishida should be held accountable for appointing such a person to an important position in the government, particularly the Ministry for Internal Affairs and Communications, which creates the foundations of society,’ Yasuda said. She added, ‘The government is going to send a message to society that the issue of discrimination is not worth considering, and is of low priority.’”
Recommended Next Steps
All of us must read, sign, and circulate the petition written by the Minority Women’s Forum, which emphasizes their own perspectives and demands. The petition can be found here: https://chng.it/MSkrQ6Ysxs
Japanese society will not be able to support oppressed communities and heal from hatred unless we call out discriminatory behavior and implement new, antidiscriminatory sociopolitical systems. Informed by Ainu women leaders and global human rights defenders, CEMiPoS advocates the following action steps.
First, Sugita must apologize for her hate speeches to those who have been suffering from her insults against them, and Director General of the Human Rights Protection Bureau Matsushita Yuko must confirm that the blog post “Shame on Japan” is legally hate speech. Prime Minister Kishida and Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Matsumoto, who are responsible for Sugita’s appointment, as well as, Matsushita, did not affirm that Sugita’s blog post was hate speech when it was presented to the Diet. Instead, these government officials have tried to dismiss the post and Sugita’s other hate speeches as one-time instances of hurting some people’s feelings. Hate speech seeks to further systemic oppressions against minoritized communities who are intentionally disadvantaged by society. By failing to identify Sugita’s words as hate speech, the government “has abandoned its legal obligation to protect human rights and comply with social norms, not to mention the guarantee of fundamental human rights in Japan's Constitution and the prohibition of incitement to discrimination stipulated in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Japan is a signatory.” Hate speech is not a matter of hurt feelings - it is a systemic problem that requires system-wide reform to solve.
Second, Sugita must immediately remove her blog posts and any social media or other internet posts that contain hate speech. These posts encourage other hate speakers in society to continue their public attacks - whether online or in the streets - against minoritized women. Sugita, a public official, endorses and supplies these hate speakers every moment that she leaves these posts on the internet.
Third, PM Kishida must remove Sugita from the House of Representatives, and replace her with a human rights defender as soon as possible. The Diet has claimed to be against hate-speech and discrimination, but rarely takes actions that fulfill these promises. Sugita was removed from her post on December 26, but according to the Minority Women’s Forum, simply removing her from her post will sweep this issue under the rug, and hate-speech will continue to proliferate in society and among other government officials. Sugita and the Diet must take more comprehensive action. Kishida needs to appoint someone who will inform the public about human rights violations and engage the public in coconspiratorship with minoritized peoples.
Fourth, the ruling coalition such as LDP and Komeito must make an effective law or strengthen the present mild law to ban discrimination against minorities and foreigners in cooperation with opposing parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party and the Japan Communist Party.
Fifth, the State must establish an independent national human rights institute following the recommendation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: the State must establish a national human rights institution with a broad mandate to promote and protect human rights, in compliance with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles).
Finally, we all must educate ourselves about our neighbors impacted by Sugita’s hate speech, and about ways to take action when we see hate speech happening. CEMiPoS recommends consulting the following resources when learning about the minoritized communities in Japan which Sugita has targeted, and when learning how to address hate speech wherever you encounter it:
- https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/server/api/core/bitstreams/0705c5e0-e95c-43fe-b905-8b7fe3f8dc34/content - essays about Japanese feminisms
- https://m.thewire.in/article/world/japan-flower-demos-protest-metoo/amp - describes flower demo movement, which is a Japanese movement against sexual assault culture that readers should learn about and support to counteract Sugita’s harm
- https://lgbtetc.jp - “J-ALL” LGBTQIA+ affirming organization and policy advocacy in Japan
- https://thebigstorypodcast.ca/2019/05/07/how-can-you-intervene-as-a-bystander-to-harassment/ Step-by-step guide to intervening in and preventing hate crimes, by renowned anti-racist author Shakil Choudhury
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20220823/p2a/00m/0na/026000c - lists Sugita’s main harmful public comments and her subsequent denial or upholding of them
https://www.asahi.com/sp/ajw/articles/14753384 - describes Sugita’s defensive answers or refusals to comment when questioned about past discriminatory remarks
http://fendnow.org/encyclopedia/mio-sugita/; http://fendnow.org/2016/07/02/former-japanese-mp-threatens-to-bomb-comfort-women-memorials-in-the-u-s/ - describes Sugita’s denial of comfort women abuses/Pacific War revisionism
https://apjjf.org/2022/2/Carland.html = article on LGBTQIA+ community responses to Sugita