Japan pressed to do more for LGBTQ community

Japan's government is coming under increasing pressure to do more for the LGBTQ community, including legalizing same-sex marriage. Lawmakers and their teams are also facing a backlash over their comments on the matter.

Government aide's controversial remarks

A top government aide made headlines in February after saying he would not want a same-sex couple living next door to him. He also said all of Prime Minister Kishida Fumio's secretaries are against same-sex marriage. Kishida fired him the following day.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio apologized for the aide's "outrageous" anti-LGBTQ remarks at a meeting of government and ruling party members on February 6.

And the international reaction to the controversy has called into question Japan's approach to human rights.

Reuters highlighted how Japan is at odds with other Group of Seven nations in terms of its same-sex marriage stance. The BBC noted that the traditional roles of men, women and family are deep-rooted in Japan.

Read more: Kishida apologizes over LGBTQ slur

The aide's comments came after other controversial remarks from Kishida himself. Earlier in February, he told a Lower House budget committee meeting that same-sex marriage requires careful consideration as it presents a change in both family values and society.

Lawmakers discussing bill to ensure LGBT rights

The controversy has prompted lawmakers to discuss a bill to promote understanding of the LGBT community that has been stalled since it was first summarized some two years ago.

Both ruling and opposition party members have been trying to fast-track the bill, but discussions have been delayed by some in the main ruling party. They oppose the part of the bill that says "discrimination is unforgivable."

Japan is the only G7 nation that does not legally recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.

LGBTQ campaigners and their supporters in Japan are becoming more active in efforts to raise awareness of the issue and call for change.

A new LGBTQ support group was launched in March.

Polls taken by domestic news outlets show more than 60% of people in the country are in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Japan court order to recognize gay Ugandan as refugee

In March, a district court in Osaka ruled that the government should grant refugee status to a Ugandan woman who says she fled to Japan to escape persecution at home for being homosexual.

The woman's legal team described the ruling as epoch-making. The Japanese government did not appeal the ruling.

Osaka District Court ruled that the government should recognize a gay Ugandan woman as a refugee.

The woman in her 30s fled to Japan three years ago after being arrested and beaten in Uganda.

She was not recognized as a refugee upon entering Japan and was ordered to leave the country. She then filed a lawsuit seeking refugee status.

Her legal team say it's the first time in Japan a court has ordered the government to grant refugee status based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

'LGBTQ people walking away from Japan'

Lack of legalization didn't stop one Japanese man from marrying his same-sex partner.

Kan, who prefers to go by his given name, moved to the UK two years ago, where same-sex marriage is legal.

"[Life] is very different in the UK," he says. "Our marriage is legally recognized and I feel that we are accepted as a couple in this society."

Photo of Kan and his partner at their wedding
Kan (left) moved to the UK in 2021, where he was able to marry his partner.

Kan says he and his partner were "legally strangers" in Japan and many LGBTQ people have walked away from Japan because they don't see rights equality.

"I urge the Japanese government to take action immediately. This is not about timing — it's about people."

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