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G7 Letter Highlights Japan’s LGBT Rights Gaps

Ambassadors Call on the Prime Minister to Take Domestic Action

Plaintiffs and supporters of marriage equality for same sex couples walk to the Tokyo district court in Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2022. © 2022 Kyodo News via AP Photo

As the International Group of Seven (G7) prepares for its May summit in Japan, peer nations are encouraging Tokyo to enact non-discrimination protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. Ambassadors from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union issued an official letter to Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio calling on him to take action.

“Japan can match its international advocacy for human rights with a domestic agenda that includes steps to protect its own LGBTQI+ communities, including enacting legal protections for its LGBTQI+ citizens,” the letter read.

In February, Fumio dismissed one of his aides for making disparaging remarks about same-sex relationships. The prime minister apologized, saying, “The remarks are totally inconsistent with government policy.”

The Japanese government is not hostile to the rights of LGBT people and has supported LGBT rights internationally. But the federal government falls short on ensuring LGBT people enjoy equal protection under Japanese law.

Japan offers no legal recognition of same-sex couples at a national level. Around 260 municipalities and 11 prefectures however have established a “partnership oath system,” or unofficial recognition for these couples, demonstrating widespread support for marriage equality across the country.

Japan lacks nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, despite strong support for a national “Equality Act”. Japan also forces trans people who want to legally change their gender to appeal to a family court, undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and be surgically sterilized.

In November 2020, a nationwide public opinion survey found 88 percent of those polled “agree or somewhat agree” with the LGBT non-discrimination laws.

Hosting the G7 is an opportunity for Japan to live up to its pledges at the United Nations Human Rights Council and its ambitions to join the Council. In the 2022 joint communiqué by G7 leaders, including Japan, the governments pledged: “We reaffirm our full commitment to a sustained focus on realizing equality between women and men as well as transgender and non-binary people and to ensuring that everyone—independent of their gender identity or expression or sexual orientation—has the same opportunities and is protected against discrimination and violence.”

Prime Minister Fumio holds the keys to living up to these promises.

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