A local politician of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has come under fire for claiming last month that his north Tokyo ward would "cease to exist" if the rights of sexual minorities are protected by law.
"This is impossible, but if all Japanese women were lesbian or all Japanese men were gay, then do you think the next generation of people will be born?" Masateru Shiraishi asked on Sept. 25 at an assembly session of Tokyo's Adachi Ward, in comments that appeared to blame sexual minorities for Japan's falling number of births.
The 78-year-old assemblyman made the remark when asking local government officials about the ward's total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime.
Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Japan, but pressure from members of the LGBT community and their allies for marriage equality has resulted in some changes at the local level, with more than 50 municipalities across the country including Tokyo's Shibuya Ward issuing "partnership certificates" to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples.
"I do not intend to intervene in the life of someone who is lesbian or gay," the veteran assembly member said. But he added, "Getting married, having children and raising them in a normal way is very important for people," arguing it is crucial to teach such views to students at schools.