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Japan tells employers that LGBT discrimination is a form of sexual harassment

Japan tells employers that LGBT discrimination is a form of sexual harassment

Tokyo's Rainbow Pride - which returned to Japan in May of this year

Japan’s Labor ministry is to define discrimination against sexual minorities as a form of sexual harassment in its guideline for employers, reports Japan Times.

Currently, the guidelines define sexual harassment as any language or actions that are sexual in nature and directed toward or between employees – but until now they have not included reference to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender employees.

The new guidelines will include reference to sexual orientation and gender identity, and will be implemented from January 2017.

News of the Labor ministry guidelines come just a couple of weeks after a group of 30 companies in the country, including IBM Japan, Panasonic, Sony, IBM Japan, Dentsu and Dai-ichi Life Insurance, announced a new set of standards for boosting LGBT diversity and inclusivity at work

These HR-drafted guidelines included recognition of same-sex partnerships and the extension of spousal benefits to same-sex partners, and appropriate bathroom policies for transgender employees.

‘There should be a more comprehensive legal framework for the protection of sexual minorities’

Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Japan, and gay people are allowed to serve in the military. However, there is no recognition of same-sex relationships, gay people are not allowed to adopt children, and there is a lack anti-discrimination laws with regards to LGBT rights.

Asian LGBT advocacy groups told GSN that the Labor ministry’s announcement is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough.

‘Defining workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals as sexual harassment is too narrow, and would also lead to bias as any discrimination would be labeled “sexual harassment”,’ said Fern Ngai, CEO of the Hong Kong-based Community Business.

‘There should be a more comprehensive legal framework for the protection of sexual minorities, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including full anti-discrimination laws.’

‘Sexual harassment is just one element of discrimination,’ added Kate Vernon, Community Business’ Director, Strategic Programmes.