Japan granted an LGBTI refugee asylum last year as they were at risk due to their sexuality in their country of origin.
It is the first known case of Japan granting asylum based on sexual orientation.
The Immigration Control Agency told the newspaper Mainichi it had granted the individual asylum last year.
The agency said homosexuality was illegal in the individual’s country.
The refugee had been arrested, imprisoned and released on bail for homosexual acts before seeking asylum in Japan.
Japan granted the individual asylum as they were ‘at risk of being persecuted because of being a member of a particular social group’.
But, the agency did not give any more information about the individual’s identity or country of origin.
Japan is known for its tough stance on immigration.
In 2017, the country accepted only 20 of about 20,000 people who applied for refugee status and allowed 45 to stay in the country on humanitarian grounds, according to the Japan Times.
Local LGBTI rights activist, Hideki Sunagawa, said it was ‘very surprising news’ that would be welcomed by rights activists.
‘I think this case will raise interest in the issue of LGBT refugees’ he told Gay Star News.
‘I hope more for cooperation between refugee and LGBT activists’ he said.
LGBTI rights in Japan
Conservative Japan does not allow same-sex marriage. National laws do not protect LGBTI people from discrimination.
In March this year, Japan granted special permission to a gay Taiwanese man to stay in Japan with his partner.
The man, who is in his 40s, lived with his partner in Japan for 25 years.
He illegally overstayed his visa.
However, in a rare move by the government, his deportation order was revoked and a special residency status was granted, his lawyers said Friday (22 March).
the man criticized the government for not recognizing same-sex partnerships: ‘Over the past 25 years, I had no other choice but to live with the person I love in hiding, as same-sex partnerships have not been accepted socially.
‘If we had been allowed to marry, our lives would have been different.’
Japan’s major opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) pledged to protect LGBT rights as it announced its election promises.
It would implement anti-discrimination legislation and legalize same-sex marriage if it wins upper house elections this year, party president Yukio Edano said according to local media.
But, in Tokyo, a city-wide anti-discrimination bill protects against discrimination based on gender identity or sexuality.
What’s more, laws force transgender people to undergo sterilization before they can legally change gender.
But, in the last year, the CDP has drafted bills to end discrimination and bring marriage equality.
Earlier this month, the CDP joined other opposition parties to draft a bill that would change the country’s definition of marriage from a ‘man and a woman’.
In October last year, CDP announced it would introduce LGBTI anti-discrimination legislation to the country’s legislature.