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Japan should pass LGBT+ protections before the Olympics

Japan should pass LGBT+ protections before the Olympics

  • #EqualityActJapan will help the country catch up with other leading economic superpowers in the G7.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

LGBT+ groups are launching an ‘#EqualityActJapan’ campaign to get Japan to pass new protections before the Olympics.

LGBT+ rights in Japan are far less advanced than in other G7 countries. It is the only nation in the G7 to offer neither marriage equality nor legal civil unions. Moreover, it lacks discrimination protections around employment, goods and services and hate speech.

The Equality Act would protect LGBT+ protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Japan had to postpone the Olympics from this year until 2021 due to coronavirus. But that also gives the country time to pass the legislation.

Indeed, campaigners say this is important to honor the spirit of the games. The Olympic Charter bans ‘discrimination of any kind’ including on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Moreover, the Tokyo Olympics are supposed to celebrate ‘unity in diversity’ and create ‘a legacy for the future’.

Hudson Taylor is founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, and one of those behind the new campaign. He said:

‘The Olympics is an important moment for athletes and fans to speak out for what they believe in. Now is the time for the global sporting community to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community in Japan and urge the passage of the Equality Act.’

Japanese public supports LGBT+ discrimination protection

The groups have already written to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asking him to move forward with the equality legislation.

Indeed, in March 2015, Abe publicly proclaimed Japan’s intention to ‘stamp out discrimination and respect human rights’. He also told the national Diet (parliament) that ‘discrimination or prejudice against sexual minorities is not allowed in any aspect of society’.

Despite the city of Tokyo and the Ibaraki region are the only two areas which have non-discrimination protections for LGBT+ people. But 83% of the Japanese public supports the Tokyo municipal LGBT+ non-discrimination ordinance.

Most of next year’s Olympics, starting on 23 July 2021, will be focused on Tokyo. However, events will also spread out beyond the capital.

Yuri Igarashi, co-representative director of J-ALL, an umbrella organization of 100 LGBT organizations in Japan, said:

‘LGBT people in Japan are entitled to equal protection under the law. Postponing the Olympic Games to 2021 has given the government time to introduce and pass historic protections to benefit everyone in Japan.’

Follow Tokyo’s lead

The #EqualityActJapan campaign promises multiple opportunities for Japanese citizens to help throughout 2020 and 2021. The formal launch will be on 23 July, to mark a year before the Olympics begin.

Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch, another organization supporting the campaign, said:

‘The Tokyo metropolitan government has shown solidarity with the LGBT community by passing its historic Olympic LGBT nondiscrimination law, and the national government should urgently follow suit.’

Meanwhile, the government’s failure to legislate for LGBT+ people means local authorities, businesses and others try to create their own sticking-plaster solutions.

For example, Japan does not have marriage equality or civil unions. But over 50 cities now issue partnership certificates to same-sex couples.

These certificates are not legally binding. But the cities hope they will help with day-to-day issues like visiting partners in hospitals or moving into shared rented accommodation.

One prefecture has even made it illegal to out someone’s sexuality or gender identity without permission.

Moreover, Japanese companies are adopting new partnership certificates to help them protect LGBT+ families.