approaching g7 summit brings japan lgbtq bill under spotlight
G7 host Japan is the intergovernmental political forum’s only member that doesn’t recognise same-sex unions yet.
Ahead of the leaders’ gathering from May 19 – 21, the government is under growing pressure to show progress by strengthening its legal protections for sexual minority citizens.
The issue was in the limelight this month after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida dismissed a top aide who told reporters in an off-the-record briefing that he didn’t “even want to look at” married same-sex couples. Masayoshi Arai even reportedly raised warnings about the legalisation of same-sex marriage leading to citizens abandoning the country.
Although the elite executive later apologised, Kishida has called the remarks “incompatible” with the inclusive society the government wants.
The Asian country has no specific anti-LGBTQ discrimination law. Although recent polls have demonstrated public support for marriage equality and other rights, ministers are treading cautiously.
A bill that promotes the “understanding” of LGBTQ issues in Japan has again been pushed to the front of the political agenda. First introduced in 2015, the legislation attracted noteworthy attention ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. However, its passage saw significant interruption from conservative members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Critics believe a proposed anti-discrimination clause could make companies and individuals more susceptible to malicious lawsuits. However, campaigners argue that sexual minority citizens of Japan frequently struggle to make discrimination claims under more general laws, so passing the legislation without the clause won’t serve the purpose.
Japanese society seems to have moved faster than the government. A recent poll by Kyodo News agency found 64% of respondents believe Japan should support the idea of same-sex marriage.
In recent months, a number of major municipalities have started offering partnership certificates that allow same-sex couples to be treated as married in areas, such as housing, medicine, and welfare. In addition to that, dozens of big Japanese businesses are now offering the same family benefits to their employees, irrespective of sexual orientation.
According to Hiroyuki Taniguchi, a professor in human rights law at Aoyama Gakuin University, “momentum is building and it’s possible that something will change.” But he warned that the momentum could be lost and “social disinterest” could return if no progress was made before the upcoming G7 summit in May.
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