In a preemptive strike in advance of hosting the 2020 Olympic games, Tokyo passed a law on October 5, 2018 prohibiting “the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, citizens, and enterprises…from…unduly discriminating on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
While the Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, said creating a diverse city where everyone can “actively participate in society and lead fulfilling lives” was one of her goals as governor, the timing of this ruling was clearly related to the International Olympic Committee’s adding a non-discrimination clause to the contracts that host cities must sign. Russia passed anti-LGBT legislation before hosting the Olympics in 2014, and Tokyo has now followed suit.
Also, as part of the ordinance, Tokyo will regulate the use of public spaces (e.g. city parks) to prevent anti-LGBT groups from “promoting discriminatory rhetoric.” It will also improve how certain situations are handled for same-sex couples such as hospital visits. The new legislation will go into effect in April 2019.
A Significant Step but More Progress is Needed
Kanae Doi, the Director of the Japan chapter of Human Rights Watch, praised Japan’s recent efforts for the steps it took to prevent discrimination against the LGBT community and including LGBT students in its anti-bullying policies, but pointed out that much still needs to be done for its LBGT community such as legalizing same-sex marriage and making it easier for transgender citizens of Japan to correct their gender on legal documents.
And Now the Opposition…
Of course, there is opposition to the ordinance. Mio Sugita, a lawmaker for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who sits in the House of Representatives, said, “The level of support for LGBT is too high.” According to an article on a UK website, 51-year-old Sugita, who is in her second term, said the government shouldn’t use taxpayers’ money to support same-sex couples because “these men and women don’t bear children — in other words, they are ‘unproductive’.”
Despite Sugita’s outspoken opposition and those who agree with her, Japan continues to take a progressive stance on LGBT issues, and more and more people are enjoying their newfound legally recognized right to live as they wish. For example, in Fukuoka, a city of approximately, 1.5 million people, same-sex couples have had their partnerships recognized by law, after the local government began officially handing out partnership certificates, and in 2017, Sapporo became the first large city in Japan to issue official partnership vow papers to those desiring to enter a same-sex union.
Similar to cities in the United States fighting to provide equal rights to all the citizens who live there, Japan seems to be doing the very same thing and with the very same type and level of opposition found here.
For more information about the legal rights of the LGBT community in Japan, please consult Equaldex’s Timeline of LGBT rights in Japan. Here you’ll find detailed information about what rights were afforded to this community in what year, and you’ll see the strides this Asian nation has made thus far and what the future may hold for continued progressive legal action for LGBT citizens of Japan.