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Japan’s Ruling Party LGBT Bill Falls Short

Reform Legislation Should Explicitly Include Nondiscrimination Protections

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, May 7, 2021. © 2021 AP Photo/Hiro Komae

Over the past six years, activists in Japan have pressed the Diet, the national parliament, to introduce a nondiscrimination law that protects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Japan currently does not have any national legislation protecting LGBT people from discrimination, and a recent study puts Japan next to last in a ranking of laws on LGBT Inclusiveness for developed countries.

One proposed law – the LGBT Equality Act – is currently under intense negotiation between Japan’s ruling and opposition parties. In April, the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) announced it would pass an LGBT law during the current Diet session, set to end in June.

But the ruling party bill, presented at the LDP’s Special Mission Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, only requires the government to “promote understanding of LGBT people.” It fails to mention nondiscrimination protections and falls short of the government’s international human rights obligations. Many Japanese LGBT rights groups oppose the draft bill, concerned that such weak language won’t offer any real protections. Opposition parties are demanding a law that explicitly protects against discrimination.

In January, 116 human rights and LGBT organizations sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga supporting binding non-discrimination legislation. In March, the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation (J-ALL), an umbrella organization of 80 LGBT groups in Japan, submitted a petition containing over 100,000 signatures to the Diet, asking to introduce the LGBT Equality Act. That same month, a court in Sapporo called Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage discriminatory and “unconstitutional.”

In July, Tokyo is set to host the Olympics, whose charter forbids “discrimination of any kind,” including sexual orientation. There is little time left before the Diet session closes in mid-June. All political parties, including the LDP, should come together and enact a national anti-discrimination bill before the Summer Games begin.

The LDP should revise the bill to include a clear clause in the main text of the law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Japan needs to pass a national anti-discrimination law now.

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