Despite objections from activists who argued that last-minute modifications by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s conservative party benefited opponents of sexual equality instead of ensuring equal rights, the lower house of Japan’s parliament on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, passed a bill to promote understanding of LGBTQ+ issues.
The passage followed only a few hours of debate in a lower house committee last Friday, June 9, 2023. The bill is expected to be approved quickly by parliament’s upper house, which is also controlled by Kishida’s governing bloc.
Of the Group of Seven major industrialized countries, only Japan lacks legal rights for LGBTQ+ people. Meanwhile, public support for same-sex unions and other rights has soared in the country.
However, opposition is still fierce inside the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is recognized for its conservative values and resistance to advancing gender equality and sexual diversity.
Since a former Kishida assistant stated in February that he wouldn’t want to live next to LGBTQ+ people and that people would flee Japan if same-sex marriage were permitted, LGBTQ+ campaigners have intensified their attempts to pass an anti-discrimination law.
The final version of the bill passed on Tuesday stipulates that “unjust discrimination” is unacceptable but does not outrightly ban discrimination, apparently because some governing party lawmakers oppose transgender rights. Some party members said more consensus building is needed before anti-discrimination measures are introduced.
The bill states that the public’s understanding of various sexual orientations and gender identities is “not necessarily sufficient.”
It adds that conditions should be created so that “all citizens can live with peace of mind.” However, critics claim that it shows that the governing party prioritized the concerns of opponents of equal rights over the rights of sexual minorities.
“Complete Opposite Of What We Need”
The Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation has criticized the bill. In a statement, the group noted that they have sought the enactment of an anti-discrimination law.
The bill, according to them, “does not focus on the people concerned, and instead focuses on the side that has discriminated against us and caused our suffering.” “It’s the complete opposite of what we need,” the statement added.
Also, Kanae Doi, Japan Director for the New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, the legislation fails to meet the international standard of anti-discrimination, and human rights should never be compromised by consideration for the majority.
At a news conference later on Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida averred that he hopes further discussion in parliament will promote wider support for the legislation.
“The government will continue to listen to the voices of the people and work hard to achieve a society where diversity is respected and where everyone cherishes each other’s human rights and dignity and where they enjoy vibrant life.”Fumio Kishida
Recent surveys depict that majority of Japanese are in support of legalizing same-sex marriage and other protections. Support among the business community has rapidly increased.
Nonetheless, Kishida insisted that public views vary on same-sex marriage, and that it is an issue that would broadly impact people if a legal system is created.
“That’s why I say a wide-ranging discussion is necessary and a broad understanding is important,” he stated.