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Japan: Global Firms Back LGBT Non-Discrimination Act

Supporters Include Coca Cola, Intel, EY, PwC, Salesforce, Deloitte, SegaSammy

Supporters of Equality Act Japan gather in front of parliament before they submit a petition in Tokyo on March 25, 2021.  © Kyodo News via AP

(Tokyo) – Major corporations have endorsed Japan’s proposed Equality Act, which would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination, J-ALL, Athlete Ally, All Out, and Human Rights Watch said today. As global LGBT Pride month kicks off, among the companies signed on to the LGBT Corporate Support Letter for #EqualityActJapan are Coca-Cola, Deloitte, EY, Intel, Microsoft, PwC, Salesforce, PepsiCo, and SegaSammy.

These and other major companies have joined efforts within Japan and abroad calling on the Japanese government to pass the bill during the current session of Japan’s legislature, the Diet, which is scheduled to end in mid-June 2021.

“Companies endorsing the LGBT Corporate Support Letter have made a clear call to end LGBT discrimination in Japan,” said Yuri Igarashi, co-chair of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation (J-ALL). “It is the responsibility of the Japanese government to pass an LGBT equality act now.” 

In March, J-ALL, Athlete Ally, All Out, and Human Rights Watch submitted a petition containing 106,250 signatures from Japan and abroad to Japanese political parties including the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The petition asked them to introduce the Equality Act to prevent discrimination against and abuse of LGBT people in Japan. The coalition aims for the bill to be passed ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which are set to start on July 23. 

The Corporate LGBT Support Letter urges legal reform in Japan “that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and contribute to an inclusive society where everyone is treated equally.” Endorsing companies said that they “believe strongly in the equal treatment of people regardless of sexual orientation,” and support “passing an LGBT Equality Act.”

In April, the LDP made a commitment to pass an LGBT law during the current Diet session. While the LDP’s original proposal did not mention anti-discrimination and only emphasized promotion of understanding, the cross-party negotiation improved the bill to include the words “discrimination is unacceptable” among its philosophical ideals.

If the LDP approves the current draft and the Diet passes the law, it will create a ground shift in Japan for LGBT rights as the country’s first national legislation for LGBT people, the organizations said.

Many of the businesses now calling for Japan’s first LGBT equality act are members of the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality (PGLE), which seeks to accelerate LGBTI equality and inclusion globally. The Partnership, announced in January 2019, is an initiative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Economic Forum, and BSR, a network of sustainable business experts that works with major companies.  

“By collaborating with civil society to encourage the Japanese government to adopt the Equality Act, the private sector is sending a strong signal that it supports LGBTI equality and inclusion,” said Salah Husseini, Associate Director at BSR, which serves as the secretariat for the Partnership. “Companies have a vital role to play in advocating on behalf of their LGBTI employees and stakeholders, especially in countries where restrictions undermine the rights of those employees.” 

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. 

“Business worldwide thrives in inclusive settings,” reads the Corporate LGBT Equality Support Letter. “We support the current efforts to protect the rights of LGBT people through the Japanese Diet’s introduction of the Equality Act.”

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