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Bullying of LGBTI students is rife in Japanese high schools, report says

'The nail that sticks out gets hammered down'

Bullying of LGBTI students is rife in Japanese high schools, report says
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Marchers at Tokyo Pride in 2012

Students face daily verbal and physical bullying merely for being different in Japanese high schools.

A new report from the Human Rights Watch (HRW) identifies ongoing problems in schools around Japan – despite government attempts to improve the situation since its first report in 2001.

Students report being told they’re ‘disgusting’ and ‘shouldn’t have been born’ by other students.

Lack of teacher-training compounds bullying issues, and teachers feel unable to deal with bullying. A government policy of ‘harmony’ places a higher emphasis on conformity than happiness, according to the report. It is not unheard of for teachers to know about or be complicit in bullying behavior.

Furthermore, a 2015 government directive labeled transgender students as suffering from a ‘disorder’. The HRW describe as the directive as ‘damaging’.

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Schools typically have strict gendered dress codes and behavior norms, which puts further pressure on transgender students.

‘When students stood out as different, they suffered bullying. They felt isolated, because they didn’t recognize themselves in their school textbooks or any of the lessons they were being taught,’ HRW research Kyle Knight told a news conference in Tokyo on Friday, May 6.

This year the government will reassess the Bulling Prevention Act as part of a mandatory review; the HRW have urged the government to change their policy.

‘The Japanese government has made gestures of support to LGBT students in recent years, but national anti-bullying policies remain silent on sexual orientation and gender identity,’ Kanae Doi, the director at HRW in Japan, said. ‘The government should urgently bring its policies to protect LGBT students in line with international standards and best practices.’

There has been progress in Japan recently. The HRW report notes that in high profile cases of LGBTI bullying, like the suicide of a teenager in 1991, the government has made assurances it will improve schools’s approach to bullying.

Last year, Shibuya ward, Tokyo, started recognizing same sex relationships.


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