Japanese LGBTQ groups demand country pass equal rights law by G-7 summit
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese LGBTQ individuals and rights groups have condemned a recent discriminatory remark by a senior Prime Minister Fumio Kishida official, demanding that his government enact laws banning discrimination against sexual minorities, legalizing same-sex marriage and ensuring equal rights before Japan hosts a Group of Seven summit in May.
Their comments at a press conference on Tuesday followed remarks last week by Kishida’s aide, Masayoshi Arai, who was fired after telling reporters he wouldn’t want to live next to LGBTQ people and that citizens would flee Japan if same-sex marriage was allowed.
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Despite Arai’s quick dismissal by Kishida, a comment the prime minister made earlier last week raised questions about his intentions towards sexual minorities.
Responding to a question from an opposition MP in parliament, Kishida said allowing same-sex marriage is “a matter that needs to be looked at with extreme care.” A decision requires a thorough consideration of the whole society “because the issue can change the concept of family and values as well as society”, he said.
At Tuesday’s press conference, LGBTQ activists and their supporters said that while Arai’s remarks showed outright prejudice against sexual minorities, Kishida’s equivocal comments suggested his reluctance to tackle the issue despite its previous commitment to creating an inclusive and diverse society.
“The Prime Minister’s discriminatory remarks made it clear to the rest of the world that Japan is a country that does not care about the rights of sexual minorities,” said Takako Uesugi, lawyer and director of Marriage For All Japan, an organization campaigning for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Noting that Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven advanced industrialized nations that does not have a law protecting the rights of sexual minorities, she said, “We have to say that Japan is not fit to lead the summit of the G-7 if we leave the situation unaddressed. .”
They demanded that the government immediately begin the process of legalizing same-sex marriage, establish a task force to study ways to guarantee the rights of sexual minorities, appoint an assistant to the Prime Minister specializing in the rights of sexual minorities and include statistics. on same-sex couples in the national census.
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Support for sexual diversity has grown slowly in Japan, and legal protections are still lacking for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. They are often victims of discrimination at school, at work and at home, which leads many of them to hide their sexual identity.
In recent years, more than 200 local municipalities, including Tokyo, have introduced partnership certificates for same-sex couples allowing them to rent apartments and sign documents for medical emergencies and for inheritance. Yet the certificates are not legally binding and same-sex couples are often barred from visiting hospitals and accessing other services available to married couples.
Campaigns for equal rights for sexual minorities have been met with resistance from conservatives in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. An attempt to enact a law on promoting equality awareness ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics has been canceled by the party.
Amid national outrage over Arai’s remarks, party general secretary Toshimitsu Motegi said he plans to start drafting legislation to promote awareness of LGBTQ rights, but some conservatives have already shown resistance. A group of nonpartisan lawmakers also said they hoped to enact equality legislation by the G-7 summit.
Activists noted that Japan signed the G-7 Elmau summit communiqué in June which calls for “full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in all their diversity as well as LGBTIQ+ people in politics, l economy, education and all other spheres of society.”
“Kishida’s lack of effort to establish legal protection amounts to promoting discrimination,” said Soshi Matsuoka, an activist who started an online petition for laws promoting anti-discrimination and equality rights. which have received more than 40,000 signatures since Sunday.